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ASSESS THE APPEARANCE

You have the bottle. You have the glass. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to pour! Before you begin slurping, take a moment to admire the wine, its color and other characteristics. After filling the glass about one-third full, swirl the wine to add some air and examine the wine’s viscosity. Thick slow “legs” or tears on the side of the glass indicate fuller body (thicker viscosity) than a fast-moving wine that sheets the glass. However, big legs do not convey information about quality, because quality wines possess various body levels, and legs can mislead. Variables such as glass shape and soap residue can affect legs and sheeting, so don’t overemphasize this aspect.


Next, examine the color, which can tell you a great deal about the wine. Tilt the glass and hold it against a white background, such as a white napkin, for a better view of the color, and use ample lighting.


Color can help you assess the age of the wine. For example, in red wines, bright ruby and deep purple shades indicate youth, whereas orange tints indicate age. You can sometimes best observe such color changes on the edge, or rim, where the wine surface meets the glass. As red wines age, compounds that cause pigmentation precipitate out of the wine. Older reds also may possess a watery quality along the rim. White wines, on the other hand, grow darker, more golden and even amber to brown. Excessive orange color for red wines or dark, amber pigmentation in whites may indicate a spoiled wine.


Color also conveys information about grape variety, which offers hints that wine pros use to guess grape varieties in “blind” tastings. Red grapes, such as Pinot Noir or Gamay (used to make Beaujolais), make lighter-colored red wines, while grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah make deeper colored and even nearly opaque wines. White wine colors range from a pale yellow with greenish hints to deep golden. A golden color may indicate oak age, while stainless steel aged wines will tend toward pale or lemon yellow.


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