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  Editorial Issue 155, October 2016   
The Secret of Sensorial TastingThe Secret of Sensorial Tasting  Contents 
Issue 154, September 2016 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 156, November 2016

The Secret of Sensorial Tasting


 What is the secret of sensorial tasting? How do you become a wine taster? How can you tell the aromas of wine and describe them? These are just few of the many questions people ask me in occasion of wine events I organize or at which I take part. These questions always remind me about those times when I was getting into wine with an “analytic” approach and I was having quite a hard time in telling aromas, in other words, I was desperately trying to recognize something familiar in a glass. It is not easy: in the beginning it is depressing to try to do your best in order to proficiently analyze the sensorial qualities of wine, most of the time you end up believing those who can do that are just impostors or maybe good speakers. With time, and this means - specifically - practicing a lot, training even more, uncorking an impressive number of bottles, filling and emptying a lot of glasses, you start to understand something, of course, a lot more than “something”.


 

 I supported many times the idea sensorial tasting is an art because it takes all of our senses - just like any artistic expression - and, equally important, our emotional and intellectual involvement. A matter of culture, among the many things, allowing us to understand the expression of certain wines, and maybe not all of them, and this is what happens when we see a painting or listen to a musical composition. Nature and man become artists: their wines represents their works. With wine, in a sense, happens what we sometimes experience in observing a painting or a sculpture, as well as when we listen to a musical composition. It can in fact happen that at first we do not understand the meaning - also because of prejudices, mood and emotional condition of the moment - and we need many “attempts” to understand it.

 Maybe the first secret of sensorial tasting is to be free of prejudices. This means, among the many things, to not make the mistake of evaluating a wine exclusively by relying on your personal taste. Everyone undeniably has his or her own preference and our taste affects both our choices and judgment. This approach, although legitimate and understandable, cannot however significantly affect sensorial and critical tasting when this is done professionally. If depends, of course, on what you want to get from sensorial tasting, while noticing that even the simple statement “I like it, I do not like it” is, on its own, a respectable critical expression. In this case, it is a subjective opinion only, of course indicative for those or the circumstances in which it is being expressed. It becomes a totally different thing when this subjective opinion is expressed with the arrogant pretension it should be considered as objective and reliable.

 Then you need training, practicing, the virtually daily use of the glass - always with respect - and the renewed curiosity of learning something new. There is more, of course, including the pleasure of experiencing old emotions again and sensations met in the past which - although they can seem familiar - they are always new. On this regard, an important role is played by memory, not only the evocative one, indeed sensorial memory, that is the skill to associate a stimulus to a well known and recognizable characteristic. Nevertheless to say, memory is formed with the practice of analytic tasting only, a task requiring concentration and attention. This is a very important aspect because it lets you increase your experience, a quality which will always be a loyal companion during tasting and to which you can trust in. Of course, experience and memory can be developed only with a continuous training and practice.

 Curiosity is the approach allowing the development of your own sensorial notions, in particular aromas. Sometimes they ask me how you can tell a specific aroma from the rich bouquet of wine emerging from a glass. The answer, in this case, is very simple. You can tell an aroma - or any other sensorial stimulus - only in case you experienced it in the past. It is clear it is impossible to tell the aroma of kiwi - or any other thing - in case you never smelt it and then “memorized”. After all, you can tell what you know. This is why curiosity becomes fundamental in order to build your own knowledge of aromas, or better to say, your own olfactory memory. An exercise you can continuously do all day long by simply paying attention - consciously - whenever you smell everything, including those things having no apparent association to wine.

 Moreover, it is very important to know tasting techniques and their use. Sensorial tasting is not, in fact, the practice of smelling the content of a glass, to watch it with attention and to sip it, indeed it is the the result of such tasks done by successfully applying specific techniques. These techniques, when properly used, make the sensorial tasting task easier while favoring the understanding of each phase. In other words, using a method is, like to say, one of the many secrets. To summarize things up, the secret of sensorial tasting is just the sum of many small and big secrets which are everything but not secrets. Practice and training are the main conditions which will make you become a good taster. This does not mean you have to taste fine and excellent wines only: low quality wines having faults are equally important. Defective wines in fact offer an important chance of study you should never miss. Taste and taste over and over, with attention, commitment and awareness: this is the secret.

Antonello Biancalana






   Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 155, October 2016   
The Secret of Sensorial TastingThe Secret of Sensorial Tasting  Contents 
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