What Is Wine Evaluation?

H. Bliss
H. Bliss
Glasses of white wine at a wine evaluation event.
Glasses of white wine at a wine evaluation event.

Wine evaluation is a means of grading a wine based on the taster's assessment of a series of common wine characteristics. Many characteristics of wine are considered when performing a wine evaluation. Before drinking, the color, aroma and surface tension, often known as legs, are observed. The wine is then tasted to judge its flavor characteristics and mouth feel.

Wine fermenting in a vat.
Wine fermenting in a vat.

Common flavor characteristics observed in wine include fruity flavors, buttery flavors, and woody, oaky flavors. Many wine drinkers report tasting notes of cinnamon, cherry, peach or other flavors within a wine. Sometimes, the fruit flavors that appear in wine can seem to have a cooked or baked flavor. Some wines have distinct floral or green flavors, like lavender or green pepper, or sweet flavors like licorice or vanilla. Prior to tasting in a wine evaluation, the wine is often allowed to air out or swirled briefly to accelerate the aerating process, which is thought to better present the flavor of the wine.

A glass of red wine.
A glass of red wine.

Part of evaluating a wine includes immersing oneself in the flavor of the wine to determine whether the taste has similar properties to other flavors, like spiciness, fruitiness, or woodiness. Many wine tasters close their eyes when tasting wine to give their full attention to the tasting experience. Slurping, chewing, and sloshing wine, though frowned upon at dinner parties, are common techniques used to aerate and fully taste wine.

Flavor characteristics may be evaluated during wine tasting.
Flavor characteristics may be evaluated during wine tasting.

The amount of alcohol and the intensity of the alcohol flavor in the wine greatly influence a taster's perception of the flavor of the wine. In general, wines that are more strongly flavored fare better with high alcohol contents than more lightly flavored wines. Consequently, red wines tend to have a higher alcohol content than white wines, since they are generally stronger in flavor. Wines that are higher in alcohol tend to run down the glass in pronounced streaks that wine tasters call the legs. Another part of evaluating the wine is the aftertaste. After drinking a quality wine, the aftertaste should be long lasting, with a pleasant, moderate, and lightly perfumy quality as it rests on the tongue.

A large part of wine evaluation is ensuring the wine is sufficiently aerated during a tasting.
A large part of wine evaluation is ensuring the wine is sufficiently aerated during a tasting.

Though many wine evaluations assign points to a wine that give it a seemingly quantitative analysis, wine tasting is not an exact science. Much of wine evaluation is subjective, based on the preferences and experience of the person performing the wine evaluation. Each person who tastes a wine will have a different experience of the flavor characteristics and body of the wine. Though many tasters often agree on major flavor characteristics of the wine, subtleties in the flavor and texture of a wine can represent differently for different people.

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    • Glasses of white wine at a wine evaluation event.
      Glasses of white wine at a wine evaluation event.
    • Wine fermenting in a vat.
      Wine fermenting in a vat.
    • A glass of red wine.
      A glass of red wine.
    • Flavor characteristics may be evaluated during wine tasting.
      Flavor characteristics may be evaluated during wine tasting.
    • A large part of wine evaluation is ensuring the wine is sufficiently aerated during a tasting.
      A large part of wine evaluation is ensuring the wine is sufficiently aerated during a tasting.