Keeping Score

May 11, 2008 by  

At a home tasting party, before you start sipping, walk your guests through what to look for in the wine. Keeping score is a fun way to keep track of what wine guests liked best and why.

A 20-point score card is easy to do. Give one point for sight, five points for smell, five points for flavour two points for the finish, three points for balance and four points for overall enjoyment. You can compare scores throughout the night or do a grand tally to see which wines were “winners.”

Sight: You look at the colour of the wine, hold your glass against a white sheet of paper or a white tablecloth. You’ll notice the different whites change from almost colourless to golden. The reds may be pale red, purple, ruby, or even terra-cotta. They lighten as they age, so a purple hue is a sign of a young wine. As long as the wine is clear and not cloudy, the colour is fine and should get 1/1.

Smell: Give the wine a good, long swirl around the glass to let the air in. This should cut down any sharp flavours and really bring out the aroma of the wine. There are over 200 specific aromas you can whiff from wine. So everyone might smell something different – this should be encouraged! Make sure to stick your whole honker deep into the glass and get a few good huffs. Award it 5/5 if the aroma made you salivate like a French Mastiff at a barbeque. Give it a 1/5 if it curled your nose hair.

Flavour: Sip it up! This is the fun part where your nose and tongue work together. Don’t just spill it down the hatch. You want to hold the wine in your mouth for a while and roll it around. If that sounds too kinky for ya, shake it around like mouthwash to expose your whole palate to the flavours. Put your chin to your chest and breathe in a little air to get the flavours soaring. What you smell and what you taste don’t always match, so this can put you off the wine. If you smell a lot of sweet fruit, then taste acidity it can be confusing and cause you to hate the wine. You have to retrain your senses to appreciate the smell and the flavour separately. Give it 5/5 if the flavour made you moan and 1/5 if you recoiled.

Finish: The finish is wine jargon for the aftertaste (the flavour that lingers in your mouth after you swallow). Unlike a one-night-stand after a Saturday night on Granville Street, with wine tasting you are hoping for the finish to hang around as long as possible. If you can count over 15 and still enjoy the taste on your tongue, give it 2/2.

Balance: The balance is the yin and yang of wine. You don’t want any one taste to dominate the others. Here are some easy ways to identify balance in your wine. If you start to salivate and the wine pricks your tongue, it’s the acidity. Cooler climates are known for sharper, tart wines because the grapes don’t get as ripe and sugary. Acidity can be a good thing; it makes wines lively, especially whites. If it’s too acidic it’ll taste sour. If it doesn’t have enough acidity the wine will be lifeless and flat.

Sweet tastes come from the sugars which take over the acids as a grape ripens. If a wine is sweet without enough acids, it’s out of balance. Warmer regions get more sugar because grapes are able to become riper. Don’t let a fruity smell trick you into thinking the wine is sweet: many dry wines with zero sugar have a big fruity flavour.

If you get fuzzy-tongue, cotton-mouth or a feeling like after you drank tea that was brewed too long – that’s the tannins. Only found in red wines, they have a bitter quality, and they’re what allows red wines to age and gives them complexity. Young wines may have too much tannin and taste really bitter. Done well, tannins should give smoothness and body to a red wine. Give it 3/3 if you feel the wine was harmonious and dock points if it messed with your chi.

Overall: Give a holistic score that represents how you liked the wine overall. If you’re pestering your host for the details of the wine so you stock up, give it a 4/4. If you only choked it down to be polite, give it a 1/4.

Most importantly, don’t take any score too seriously. In the end, they just serve as your own personal reminder of which wine you liked. Cheers!


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