Wine Tasting the WSET Way

Written by eleanor on December 6th, 2011

Recently we completed the Intermediate Certificate in Wines and Spirits at the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET). WSET taught us a completely new and sophisticated way of tasting and evaluating wines and spirits.  They have registered this way as the “Systematic Approach to Wine Tasting.” Industry and its professionals also follow this approach.

In the past, we took a relaxed approach to reviewing wines, sometimes (or often times!) using vague, non-technical terms . Yes, this approach was fine, but now we have the tools to provide a technical analysis for the benefit of more serious wine professionals or educated wine lovers.  Therefore, from now on, any blog entry of mine (Eleanor) will include not only general impressions and fun commentary of a wine but also a technical analysis component.

So what is this “Systematic Approach to Tasting”? I will not give away everything here because keen readers of this blog should educate themselves and appreciate wine through WSET’s courses too; however, I will take you through the basics:

Step 1: analyse the APPEARANCE of the wine or spirit. For example, is it cloudy or clear?

Step 2: analyse the NOSE of the wine or spirit. For example, is it a clean or unclean condition? Lightly-fragranced or pronounced? What kinds of aromas do you smell?

Step 3: analyse the PALATE of the wine or spirit. For example, is it dry or sweet? Does it have high tannin? How high are the acidity levels? What kinds of flavour characteristics come through? How heavy is the liquid in your mouth (body)? How long do the desirable characteristics linger in your mouth (finish)?

Step 4: give your conclusions. Did you think it was an acceptable or outstanding wine for its category and price point? Remember that you should make your conclusions on a wine by comparing like for like. Finally, do you like this wine and will you buy it again for yourself?

To push your knowledge and appreciation of wine to the next level, I would highly recommend that you consider taking a formal course. You’ll find your journey through wine less daunting, meet like-minded people, learn from people’s careers, and gain greater respect for the science and geography of wines.

Enjoy the evolution of the wine blog! I promise it won’t be too complex!