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  Wine Tasting Issue 95, April 2011   
The Pitfalls of Sensorial TastingThe Pitfalls of Sensorial Tasting Wines of the MonthWines of the Month  Contents 
Issue 94, March 2011 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 96, May 2011

The Pitfalls of Sensorial Tasting

Sensorial tasting is a pleasing and formative experience, however it can hide some pitfalls which can compromise its reliability

 Sensorial tasting of organoleptic qualities - in our specific case - of wine, is an exercise done in different ways, according to the type of result of study we want to achieve. The tasting of a wine can in fact assume many connotations, from the simple subjective evaluation to asses whether you like it or not, to the one being the most objective possible having the goal of relying on models commonly accepted, of course, not to be considered as an absolute reference and agreed by anyone. The “simple” evaluation of a wine, in order to asses its subjective agreeability, is characterized by a lower number of pitfalls than the one having the a critical and analytical goal. The simple subjective evaluation seems to rely on personal taste only, to what is considered to be good or bad; nevertheless also this type of evaluation is not immune to pitfalls, even fatal ones.


 

 Emotional factors, humoral predisposition and involvement determined by circumstances, are all “pitfalls” which can influence the result of wine tasting, even at a subjective level. A wine tasted in company of friends, in occasion of joyous and informal dinners, can favor a better predisposition to its agreeability. The same wine, tasted on one's own, at the end of a working day, being in a bad mood and feeling tired, or even after having had an argument with someone, will make that wine taste less good than the evening spent in company of friends. Whether being in company with friends is always good, when you taste a wine this is not always the best condition. In an “informal” group, all tend to express their opinions, sometimes trying to impose his or her own to others, ending to influence the judgment of each one.

 This effect is pretty known and can happen, for example, in occasion of “guided tasting” in which a taster conducts the account of a wine in front of a group of people. His or her account of the sensations perceived from the glass, also supported by the position of conductor, can influence the perception of others. In other words, in case the conductor of the tasting says, for example, he or she is perceiving the aroma of strawberry, the probability the same aroma will be then perceived by the group is pretty high. For this reason, in group professional tasting, it is forbidden to participants - during the tasting - to express any opinion, in order not to influence the work of others. Moreover, what can be perceived by a subject could pass unnoticed to another, and vice versa.


Blind tasting, by hiding bottles inside
bags, is fundamental for the reliability of the result
Blind tasting, by hiding bottles inside bags, is fundamental for the reliability of the result

 In order to be reliable, the tasting of a wine must be done according to constant models and conditions. This not only ensures the same evaluation criteria for each sample - essential, when you decide to evaluate many wine samples in the course of time - excluding dangerous and extraneous elements which could influence or alter the result, or conditioning it in any way. For this reason, professional tasting setups, tends to offer an “aseptic” working place in order to shield the taster from external factors, made from a small white table with walls, in order to avoid any visual confrontation with the other participants to the tasting. The process of sensorial tasting, when its goal is purely analytical and the most objective possible, requires a very high level of concentration, while trying to limit as much as possible any personal consideration. This latter factor, of course, is necessarily present in case the goal of the tasting is of personal nature.

 The occasions of “informal” tasting are of course so many and they should exclusively be considered for what they really are, that is the possibility of evaluating a wine with the only goal of getting an idea of it, more or less concise. There also are cases in which the tasting is highly influenced by distorting factors such to compromise the reliability of the evaluation. A typical case is represented by visiting a winery. The hospitable and gentle condition usually found to welcome us, as well as the conditioning caused by the view of the places around, generally predispose in a positive manner towards the evaluation of a wine and to its acceptability as good. In other words, it makes us feel part of something unique. Moreover, being treated with kindness, courtesy and with a warm welcome, predisposes - in general terms - to return the very same type of behavior. The wine we will have in our glass, offered by the host of the winery, will seem - generally speaking - better than what it really is, and some of the defects will go unnoticed, also because of a lower concentration.

 The biggest pitfall in tasting a wine in the winery is when it is directly drawn off from the tank or cask, in particular when you personally take part to this operation. This kind of tasting - not very reliable because it is a young wine, not ready yet - is strongly influenced by the involvement on the situation, we believe to take part to something unique (and it really is) to taste something special few have the chance to taste. In other words, we are pleased by the privilege of directly tasting in the winery - and, once again, it is a real privilege - therefore obfuscating our critical and analytical sense. Tasting wine in a winery always offers an indicative idea on how that producer works, not on the real quality of his or her wines, as they are not ready yet. Also for this reason, every “absolute” evaluation would be very unjust, silly and useless. They however are important tasting, also in order to understand the many ages of a wine, in particular, in its very moments of life.

 Another pitfall for the evaluation of a wine is represented by wine exhibitions and wine en primeur events, including the events in which many wines are available for tasting, sometimes being very different one from each other. When you taste many wine samples in sequence, the probability of making evaluation mistakes is very high, and not only because of the progressive diminishing of concentration. One of the most frequent phenomena occurring in this type of occasions is the so called halo effect. This inconvenience is pretty annoying and influences the evaluation and the perception of wines tasted in sequence, also in a very prejudicial way. The halo effect is the conditioning caused by the tasting of a wine on the next one. In other words, in case in a wine we perceive a strong acidity and a remarkable structure, the next one will tend to disappear in our mouth, it will taste like a weak wine, with no body, flat.

 The halo effect can occur - in a more or less determinant way - every time we are going to taste a sequence of wines. For this reason, in professional tasting, in order to make it the most reliable possible, no more than eight wines are hardly tasted for each session. A remedy to limit (but not to completely avoid) the consequences of the halo effect, is to “clean” the oral cavity at the end of each tasting. This can be done by chewing a small piece of bread, “neutral and insipid” - such as the one made in central Italy, in Umbria and Tuscany, for example - followed by a rinsing of the mouth with some water. The tasting of a series of red wines causes a progressive “desensitization” of taste buds caused by the precipitation of tannins which, by bonding with mucin, a protein found in saliva, cover the surface of the tongue. This phenomenon can be observed by the blackish coloration of the tongue and which can be in part eliminated by chewing a small piece of bread.

 The effect of alcohol is another pitfall occurring in the tasting of a series of wines, in particular when they are being swallowed and not expelled from the mouth. The same problem is found in the tasting of wines having a strong acidity, also in this case classified as halo effect. A wine with a remarkable quantity of alcohol or acid (technically defined as “crisp”) will make the next wine having a “round” character, taste as flat and dull. The progressive intake of alcohol, in case wine samples are being swallowed, because of the known effects caused to the organism, tends to weaken the sensitivity of sense organs, last but not the least, concentration as well. For this reason, it is always good to take a long break, of about one hour, after having tasted a series of wines made of more than eight samples. Not only a relax for the senses - giving them the possibility to recover their sensitivity - but also to attenuate the effects of the intake of alcohol.

 Sensitivity is also determined by the moment of tasting. Both the sense of smell as well as the sense of taste, are more receptive in the morning, in particular in the moments preceding lunch - that is when hunger is higher - while they become less sensitive at the end of a meal. At the beginning of a meal, that is when hunger is higher, flavors and aromas tend to be more appealing and positively perceived, whereas at the end of the meal, when hunger is replaced by satiety, the use of senses and the act of eating, can also cause a sense of nausea. For this reason, it is always not advised to taste wines soon after meals and - in case we need to do that - it is advised to wait at least three hours before pouring some wine in the glass and to pass it through the examination of our sense. The best moment for tasting is in the morning, while however paying attention not to taste more than 8-10 samples per session.

 Tasting a sequence of wines, such as in case of contests or critical evaluations, should always be done blind, that is without knowing in advance the name of the wine or the producer. This presupposition is essential in order to get a reliable evaluation, as knowing in advance the wine you are going to taste introduces extremely prejudicial factors for the result. When you “blind” taste a wine, as well as not providing any element about the wine to be evaluated, it is always advisable to hide the bottle from the view of the taster, even better, to serve the glass filled with wine. The sight of the bottle is in fact a prejudicial element as from its characteristics, and from its shape, the taster could get some elements about the identification of the wine. For example, the Bordelais bottle is usually associated to full bodied red wines, whereas the Burgundy type is usually reserved to crisp and elegant red wines, such as, for example, the ones produced with Pinot Noir.

 For this reason, it is always better to hide the shape of the bottle by putting it in a wide bag, whereas it should be avoided to wrap it in aluminum foil: you can hide the label, but not the shape. Hiding the bottle inside a bag it is not however completely reliable. For obvious reasons, a part remains uncovered - the neck of the bottle and the opening - parts which can be sometimes personalized by producers with absolutely “recognizable” elements and frequently associated to a specific area. On this regard, we should consider, for example, a Burgundy bottle and an Albeisa bottle: the shape is pretty similar, however the opening is quite different, therefore, recognizable. The best way, as well as reliable, is to serve to the taster the glass in which was been previously poured the wine away from his or her sight. In any case, tasting a wine of which is known in advance the type, producer, production area or any other identifying element, does not provide reliable results, not even critical ones, as it is highly influenced by prejudicial factors.

 






 Editorial  Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of Wine Tasting column Events 
  Wine Tasting Issue 95, April 2011   
The Pitfalls of Sensorial TastingThe Pitfalls of Sensorial Tasting Wines of the MonthWines of the Month  Contents 
Issue 94, March 2011 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 96, May 2011

Wines of the Month


 

Score legend

Fair    Pretty Good    Good
Very Good    Excellent
Wine that excels in its category Wine that excels in its category
Good value wine Good value wine
Prices are to be considered as indicative. Prices may vary according to the country
or the shop where wines are bought




Aurente 2007, Lungarotti (Umbria, Italy)
Aurente 2007
Lungarotti (Umbria, Italy)
Grapes: Chardonnay (90%), Grechetto (10%)
Price: € 14.85 Score: Wine that excels in its category
Aurente shows a brilliant golden yellow color and nuances of golden yellow, very transparent. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas that start with hints of banana, grapefruit and apple followed by aromas of pear, plum, hawthorn, vanilla, praline, hazelnut, butter and mineral. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a crisp attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness. The finish is persistent with flavors of banana, plum and grapefruit. Aurente ages in barrique for 6 months followed by 8 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Roasted fish, Roasted white meat, Pasta with meat, Stuffed pasta



San Giorgio 2004, Lungarotti (Umbria, Italy)
San Giorgio 2004
Lungarotti (Umbria, Italy)
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Sangiovese (40%), Canaiolo Nero (10%)
Price: € 24.00 Score:
San Giorgio shows a deep ruby red color and nuances of ruby red, little transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas that start with hints of black cherry, black currant and plum followed by aromas of violet, blueberry, vanilla, tobacco, cocoa, mace, leather, licorice and eucalyptus. The mouth has excellent correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness. The finish is very persistent with long flavors of black currant, black cherry and plum. San Giorgio ages for 12 months in barrique followed by 36 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Roasted meat, Game, Braised and stewed meat, Hard cheese



Verduno Pelaverga Basadone 2009, Castello di Verduno (Piedmont, Italy)
Verduno Pelaverga Basadone 2009
Castello di Verduno (Piedmont, Italy)
Grapes: Pelaverga
Price: € 10.00 Score:
Verduno Pelaverga Basadone shows a brilliant ruby red color and nuances of cherry pink, moderate transparency. The nose denotes intense, clean and pleasing aromas which start with hints of cherry, raspberry and strawberry followed by aromas of plum, violet, cyclamen and black pepper. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a slightly tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing crispness. The finish is persistent with flavors of cherry, raspberry and plum. Verduno Pelaverga Basadone ages for 8 months in steel tanks followed by 3 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Pasta with mushrooms, Sauteed meat with mushrooms



Barbaresco 2006, Castello di Verduno (Piedmont, Italy)
Barbaresco 2006
Castello di Verduno (Piedmont, Italy)
Grapes: Nebbiolo
Price: € 18.00 Score:
This Barbaresco shows a brilliant ruby red color and nuances of garnet red, moderate transparency. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas that start with hints of cherry, violet and raspberry followed by aromas of plum, vanilla, tobacco, cocoa, cinnamon and menthol. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, pleasing crispness. The finish is persistent with flavors of cherry, plum and raspberry. This Barbaresco ages for 17 months in cask, 7 months in steel tanks and 15 months in bottle.
Food Match: Game, Roasted meat, Braised and stewed meat, Hard cheese



Arquata Rosso 2005, Adanti (Umbria, Italy)
Arquata Rosso 2005
Adanti (Umbria, Italy)
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon (45%), Merlot (45%), Barbera (10%)
Price: € 18.00 Score: Wine that excels in its category
Arquata Rosso shows an intense ruby red color and nuances of garnet red, little transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of black cherry, black currant and plum followed by aromas of blueberry, violet, blackberry, vanilla, tobacco, chocolate, mace, pink pepper and eucalyptus. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of black cherry, black currant and blueberry. Arquata Rosso ages in barrique and in cask for 24 months followed by 6 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Game, Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat, Hard cheese



Sagrantino di Montefalco Il Domenico 2005, Adanti (Umbria, Italy)
Sagrantino di Montefalco Il Domenico 2005
Adanti (Umbria, Italy)
Grapes: Sagrantino
Price: € 37.00 Score:
Sagrantino di Montefalco Il Domenico shows an intense ruby red color and nuances of ruby red, little transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of black cherry, blackberry and plum followed by aromas of violet, blueberry, tobacco, vanilla, chocolate, pink pepper, leather, mace, cinnamon and menthol. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness. The finish is very persistent with long flavors of blackberry, black cherry and plum. Sagrantino di Montefalco Il Domenico ages for 30 months in cask followed by 24 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Game, Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat, Hard cheese



Franciacorta Demi Sec, Ricci Curbastro (Lombardy, Italy)
Franciacorta Demi Sec
Ricci Curbastro (Lombardy, Italy)
Grapes: Chardonnay (60%), Pinot Blanc (40%)
Price: € 18.00 Score: Wine that excels in its category
This Franciacorta Demi Sec shows a brilliant greenish yellow color and nuances of greenish yellow, very transparent, fine and persistent perlage. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas that start with hints of apple, banana and acacia followed by aromas of lychee, bread crust, pear and plum. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a pleasing sweet, effervescent and crisp attack, however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of banana, apple and pear. This Franciacorta Demi Sec referments in bottle on its lees for at least 24 months.
Food Match: Semifreddo, Cream and fruit desserts



Brolo dei Passoni 2006, Ricci Curbastro (Lombardy, Italy)
Brolo dei Passoni 2006
Ricci Curbastro (Lombardy, Italy)
Grapes: Chardonnay
Price: € 16.00 - 50cl Score:
Brolo dei Passoni shows an intense golden yellow color and nuances of golden yellow, transparent. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas which start with hints of ripe banana, citrus fruit peel and honey followed by aromas of date, peach jam, hazelnut, nail polish, vanilla, walnut and cardamom. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a sweet attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness. The finish is persistent with flavors of banana, honey and walnut. Brolo dei Passoni is made from dried grapes and ages in barrique for one year followed by 12 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Dried fruit desserts, Hard cheese



Orcia Rosso Cenerentola 2007, Donatella Cinelli Colombini (Tuscany, Italy)
Orcia Rosso Cenerentola 2007
Donatella Cinelli Colombini (Tuscany, Italy)
Grapes: Sangiovese (65%), Foglia Tonda (35%)
Price: € 19.50 Score:
Orcia Rosso Cenerentola shows a brilliant ruby red color and nuances of ruby red, moderate transparency. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas which start with hints of black cherry, blackberry and plum followed by aromas of violet, blueberry, vanilla, tobacco, chocolate and mace. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a slightly tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of black cherry, plum and blackberry. Orcia Rosso Cenerentola ages for 12 months in cask and barrique.
Food Match: Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat with mushrooms, Hard cheese



Brunello di Montalcino Progetto Prime Donne 2006, Donatella Cinelli Colombini (Tuscany, Italy)
Brunello di Montalcino Progetto Prime Donne 2006
Donatella Cinelli Colombini (Tuscany, Italy)
Grapes: Sangiovese
Price: € 35.00 Score: Wine that excels in its category
Brunello di Montalcino Progetto Prime Donne shows an intense ruby red color and nuances of garnet red, moderate transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of black cherry, plum and violet followed by aromas of blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, vanilla, tobacco, chocolate, cinnamon, mace and menthol. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of black cherry, plum and blackberry. Brunello di Montalcino Progetto Prime Donne ages in cask.
Food Match: Game, Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat, Hard cheese



Rosso di Montalcino 2008, Siro Pacenti (Tuscany, Italy)
Rosso di Montalcino 2008
Siro Pacenti (Tuscany, Italy)
Grapes: Sangiovese
Price: € 20.00 Score: Wine that excels in its category
This Rosso di Montalcino shows a brilliant ruby red color and nuances of garnet red, moderate transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of black cherry, plum and violet followed by aromas of raspberry, strawberry, vanilla, rose, tobacco, cocoa, rose, mace and menthol. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, pleasing crispness. The finish is persistent with flavors of black cherry, plum and raspberry. This Rosso di Montalcino ages for 12 months in barrique.
Food Match: Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat with mushrooms, Hard cheese



Brunello di Montalcino 2008, Siro Pacenti (Tuscany, Italy)
Brunello di Montalcino 2008
Siro Pacenti (Tuscany, Italy)
Grapes: Sangiovese
Price: € 55.00 Score:
This Brunello di Montalcino shows a brilliant ruby red color and nuances of garnet red, moderate transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of black cherry, plum and blackberry followed by aromas of raspberry, blueberry, violet, rose, vanilla, tobacco, cocoa, lavender, mace and menthol. The mouth has excellent correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, agreeable. The finish is very persistent with long flavors of black cherry, plum and blueberry. This Brunello di Montalcino ages for 24 months in barrique.
Food Match: Game, Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat, Hard cheese






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  Wine Tasting Issue 95, April 2011   
The Pitfalls of Sensorial TastingThe Pitfalls of Sensorial Tasting Wines of the MonthWines of the Month  Contents 
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