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BLOG #4: How to 'Look' at Wine? (Red wine example)

It might sound a little silly...but there is actually a way to 'look' at wine.....sure we all enjoy spotting the colour of the wine but do we know what we are looking for when you pick a bottle of wine at a bar or a restaurant to enjoy when it enters your glass?


If you are a seasoned wine taster then you will undoubtedly be able to look at via the systematic assessment to understand colour, intensity, clarity and even viscosity. But for the non-seasoned casual drinker, what do we look for in a glass?


Well firstly, use your eyes to inspect the wine in your glass. Ideally you want somewhere around 60-80ml serving and with natural light attempt to view the wine by angling the glass over a white backdrop and inspect the colour, intensity of that colour and the colour at the rim (the hue) within the glass and rotate the wine around the glass to get an idea of the viscosity (thickness for want of a better word) of the liquid....what can this tell you about the wine?


So lets use a simple example, you pick a red wine and you have filled it with a 60-80ml amount of wine within your large glass (note large glass for red wines). What colour is it - well the scale we use for Red wines is Purple, Ruby, Garnet, Tawny and Brown. The way you look at the colour is two fold....look at the hue (recall we explained this was the rim of the glass) as well as when you have the glass angled, ask yourself if you can see through the liquid to the stem.


The first question of the colour of the hue, should give you the initial colour. So is there hints of purple at the rim? Or is there a movement towards an orangey/brown rim then you would be looking at garnet. Most wines are likely to be Ruby if you are drinking an every day drinker (big sweeping statement there but nevertheless). The Intensity is what we refer to the depth of the liquid - and these can be Pale, Medium or Deep. The deeper the liquid, ie the less you can see of the stem of the glass when looking through the liquid, the deeper you would suggest the wine is overall. So Deep really would signify you cannot see the bottom of the glass through the density of the liquid.


So now we have colour and density or intensity of the wine - lets use a real life classic example, household Merlot is likely to be a Medium Ruby red wine (so now you have explained in wine terms colour and intensity), next is viscosity. So this is easily enough measured by looking at what happens when you swirl the wine in the glass.


When swirling the wine, does it stick to the glass and create 'legs' or 'tears' which are commonly used to describe the lines on the glass which remain and fall in varying speeds back to the bulk of the liquid in the glass. Typically, higher viscosity is seen when wines have higher levels of alcohol or have residual sugar within them (there is also some definition in whites based on higher acidity but that is for another day).


So lets swirl the wine in the glass and see.....taking our everyday drinking Merlot which is Medium Ruby in colour, with some legs - it is called the 'Marangoni effect' albeit they remain pretty quick to dissipate - given the wine in question is not high in alcohol in wine terms and has no residual sugar. Note, wine 'legs' do not constitute whether a wine is good or not - there is no reference of quality linked to 'legs' or 'tears' in your glass.


Ok so now that you can describe a red wine by looking at it in the glass....get on and drink it :)


Until next time, when we look at White Wines....enjoy and happy supping!


The Devon Wine Guy

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