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Small tasting lesson

Jacky Rigaux


The way the wine feels in the mouth, or rather its aptitude to stimulate the palate is the most interesting factor. These sensations enable us to better appreciate the complexity and unique characteristics of a wine: consistency, suppleness, viscosity, texture, vivacity, aromatic length and aptitude for ageing. This is the gourmet method of wine tasting.



A "vin de terroir" * is always consistent. In each "terroir" worthy of its name, the grapes reach optimum physiological maturity and naturally produce consistent wines. It's the substance of the wine, its structure, body and natural concentration.
This consistency is a result of the vatting process (maceration before fermentation, fermentation, maceration after fermentation for red wines and fermentation and ageing of the juices on the lees for the whites).
During this time, various substances are extracted from the grapes, in particular the tannins. If there is no consistency at the outset, the ageing process will not change anything!
Concentration through diverse modern techniques such as reversed osmosis, maceration of oak chips and the addition of manufactured substances can succeed in deluding the taster initially, but on airing and particularly on ageing, one discovers the absence of complexity in these "technically produced" wines.



The consistency of a "vin de terroir" must show suppleness on entering the mouth. Only after this, should one taste the astringency, natural in young red wines. The Larousse dictionary considers suppleness to be the consistency's flexibility. To appreciate this characteristic, one should be able to mix the liquid without there being any sensation of hardness on the pallet.
One good way of learning to recognise suppleness in the mouth is to bite in to an egg custard and then in to a soft-boiled egg. When pressure from the jaw is applied to the egg custard, the substance is crushed and disintegrates. This gives a soft sensation in the mouth. The sensation of the boiled egg however, is that similar to a mattress spring. That, is supplenes.



A great "vin de terroir" produces good viscosity in the mouth. This sensation is essential, as it reflects the quality of the tannins.
Talented wine growers who respect their land limit their yields, never harvest their grapes for convenience purposes, but always at the optimum level of maturity. Furthermore, they carry out a harsh sorting of the grapes on arrival at the fermenting room.
The study of this characteristic therefore depends on one's perception of the tannin's quality: round, full, fat, firm, hard…
Tannin is naturally present in the grape skins and pips. In the mouth, it triggers salivary secretions.
Good tannins always give a paradoxical sensation of astringency and oiliness.
Great wines always leave the palate feeling slightly oily.
First the tannin, then this great oily feeling which one associates with a high quality olive oil.



Shakespeare, who was undoubtedly initiated to wine by a professional, spoke of great French wines and Burgundy nectars, boasting their velvety, silky, delicate fruitiness. A "vin de terroir" must provide sensations in the mouth evoking silk, taffeta and velvet.
Even very young wines from reputable vineyards boast an unmatched texture.
Once the years have tamed the hotheaded youth in particularly exceptional vintages, the wines from Burgundy melt in the mouth blending their velvety texture with noble consistency, offering the most moving of taste sensations.
The best way to learn how to appreciate texture is by feeling different types of material, for example, silk and hessian.
In the mouth, textures can be compared by swallowing carrot grated with a course grater and then with a fine grater. It is the same carrot which produces two completely different taste sensations.



Vivaciousness owes itself to the wine's natural acidity. Alcoholic fermentation followed by malo-lactic fermentation work subtle transformations that guarantee a racy vivacity, whilst shaping the consistency and sharpening the texture of the wine.
This characteristic literally livens up the wine in the mouth. It also brings out the aromatic freshness of any great Burgundian climate.
It is the winegrower's ability to harvest at the optimum level of physiological maturity and not for convenience, which is the key.
This obviously involves strict monitoring of yields as well as a ruthless sorting of the grapes to strike a perfect balance.


Aromatic persistency

A great "vin de terroir" has length in the mouth. It is not enough for a wine to be tannic and aromatic with a strong taste of wood, as is the case of some "manufactured" wines. The wine's complexity must also be brought to the fore by its long presence in the mouth. The longer the wine, the longer the aromatic persistency.
One talks of final taste in the mouth, of sap, particularly with white wines. Then we judge the intensity of the wine in the mouth before it fades. However, it is the analysis of this aromatic persistency which is most appreciated by the amateur!
All the 1er and Grands Crus have great aromatic persistency.


Aptitude for ageing

A great "vin de terroir" is made to last and its complexity only falters really after a long ageing process, which varies according to the quality of the vintages.
Exceptional vintages enable wine to keep for a century or longer. In good vintages, life expectancy is less great. In average vintages, it is worth tasting the wines within the first 10 years.
It goes without saying that the most prestigious Grands Crus and 1er Crus have the greatest potential for ageing.

* "Vin de terroir" - Wine produced from grapes originating from a particular vineyard, from local soil


It is the terroir that gives a wine its typicty

Jacky Rigaux

It is the terroir that imprints the wine with its mark, its typicity. It is the soul of a wine. Even though geological science, combine with biochemistry has proposed several undeniable assertions, luckily, a large part still remains a mystery.

Research aimed at explaining the influence of the subsoil on the sensory qualities of wine has enabled the formulation of several hypotheses on the role of certain chemical elements; manganese, magnesium and, in particular, potassium.

It is thought that calcium and active limestone are essential factors. It has been proposed that the weight, roundness and fullness of a wine depends on limestone, that clay favours the extraordinary and paradoxical alliance of strength and softness, that silica imparts power and strength and that iron develops the intensity of colour...



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