Knowing the Wine

Serving Temperatur

There are some simple general rules that, if followed, will ensure that you don’t go too far wrong. White wines should be served chilled (6-10°C), whereas red wines should be served at room temperature (16-20°C). Rosé wines should be served at half-way between the two (10-16°C). In addition, it is essential to differentiate between sparkling and still wines: the former prefer lower temperatures than the latter. The more body the wine has, the higher the serving temperature should be. White wines with real body and structure should not be consumed cold, only slightly chilled.

Choosing the Glass

To appreciate a good wine, the choice of glass is fundamental. A good glass should favour the decantation of the wine and the concentration of the aromas. As such, the glass will generally be wider at the base, becoming narrower towards the brim. Colourless thin glass or crystal should be used to facilitate the visual examination of the content. The ideal shape depends on the type of wine:

TULIP-SHAPED: light white wines

RHINE: well-structured white wines

SMALL BALLOON: light-bodied red wines

BURGUNDY: full-bodied red wines

LARGE BALLOON: full-bodied, aged red wines

FLÛTE: dry sparkling wines

GOBLET: sweet sparkling wines

Visual Analysis

Visual analysis begins once you have filled one-third of the glass with wine. The glass should be held by the stem and brought into the field of vision at an angle of 45°, preferably against a light background. The following elements should be examined:

  • clarity , or the absence of suspended particles greater clarity indicates greater stability and better health;
  • the tonality (or chromatic quality) of the colour in white wines, the colour ranges from paper-white to greenish-yellow, straw-yellow, gold and amber; in rosé wines, it ranges from pale pink to light pink to cherry red; and in red wines, it ranges from ruby-red to purple to garnet, all the way to orange;
  • the intensity (or saturation) meaning the level of concentration of the specific tonality
  • the reflections are described , in the same terms as the tonality (greenish-yellow, straw-yellow, golden, amber, violet, garnet, etc.), although reference is also made to the undertones visible at the rim of the glass, which are most easily observed by tilting it; the reflections are useful in revealing the evolution of the wine
  • last but not least, for sparkling wines and spumantes, it is important to evaluate the effervescence resulting from the carbon dioxide that is released when the wine is poured, creating the bubbles or perlag

The Chromatic scale of Wines

There are numerous variables that affect the colour of a given wine: the grape type, the characteristics of the soil, the vintage, the degree of ripeness, the vinification, the ageing process and the age. The colour is the first indicator that is taken into account when evaluating a wine, and it should be measured both in and of itself and in relation to the other aspects involved in carrying out a visual examination.


  • Greenish-yellow; This is a pale yellow with greenish tints that tend to diminish over time. It characterises young, fresh wines, and wines that are harvested relatively early.
  • Straw-yellow; This is the most commonly found version of the light yellow colour, and can vary significantly depending on the intensity (becoming more or less loaded).
  • Golden-yellow; This is a bright yellow, which characterises wines made from particular grape types.
  • Amber-yellow; This is the typical colour of certain passito (dried-grape) wines, liqueur wines and, in general, wines made using extremely ripe grapes.


  • Faint pink
    This colour is similar to that of rose petals or peach blossom.
  • Cherry-red
    This is a relatively bright red colour.
  • Light pink
    This pink tends towards red, without reaching the intensity of red wines per se.
  • Onion skin
    A bright pink, loaded with reflections that tend towards orange.


  • Purple
    This is an intense red, with violet reflections, that often characterises young wines.
  • Ruby-red
    This is the most common shade for red wines: a dark red that is reminiscent of rubies. Its presence indicates that the wine should be consumed when relatively young.
  • Garnet
    A colour that tends towards blood red. The presence of this colour is the first sign of the maturity of the wine: garnet undertones indicate that the wine has been aged for at least a couple of years and has developed satisfactorily. Certain wines – particularly those made from Pinot Nero and Nebbiolo grapes – may display garnet undertones even when still young.
  • Orange
    Usually, orange undertones recall the colour of brick. This shade is the typical indicator that the wine has been aged for some time, and it therefore often characterises great wines, which reach their peak over many years. By contrast, orange undertones can also indicate that a given wine does not have great ageing potential and has responded poorly to ageing.
Olfactory analysis
The second stage of the tasting process is olfactory analysis. Very often, aromas are described in abstract, highly ornate terms that see them being compared to flowers, fruits and much more besides. Despite the pre-conceptions of those with limited experience, what is released by the wine actually has nothing to do with the 'magical' presence of that fruit or that flower within the wine.
What we perceive is simply a combination of chemical elements – a combination that may also be shared by a flower, a fruit or just about anything else that the wine's aroma reminds us of. Wine contains a plethora of aromatic substances; more than 500 have so far been catalogued.
During the olfactory examination, the quality, intensity, persistence and nature of the aroma are all taken into account. The analysis passes through two phases: first, hold the glass still and breathe in for a few seconds; then, sniffing as you do so, swill the wine in the glass in such a way as to cause the volatile substances to be released on coming into contact with the air.
The set of aromatic combinations deriving from the various evolutionary and transformation processes undergone by the grape to turn it into wine gives rise to an extensive array of fragrances. These fragrances can, however, be classified into three main groups:
  • Floral aromas 
    Floral aromas are very often found in young wines: young white wines usually recall white flowers, and young red wines usually recall red flowers.
    Acacia, hawthorn, rose, geranium, orange blossom, honeysuckle, lime, violet, narcissus, jasmine and broom..
  • Fruity Aromas 
White wines normally offer up the fragrance of white-skinned fruits, whereas red wines normally release aromas that are reminiscent of red-skinned fruits
Apricot, pineapple, banana, cherry, strawberry, blackcurrant, raspberry, mulberry, quince, plum, citrus fruits and exotic fruits.
  • Dried-fruit aromas 
These aromas are usually found in more complex wines.
Fragrances include dried fig, almond, walnut, prune, sultana and jam.
  • Vegetable Aromas 
These aromas are found in great wines.
Grass, ferns, cut hay, limoncello, sage, dead leaves, walnut skin, green pepper, mushroom, truffle, musk and hummus
  • Spicy-aromatic aromas
With a few notable exceptions, these aromas are usually found in complex wines.
Aniseed, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, liquorice, nutmeg, laurel, thyme, basil, lavender, ginger, pepper and vanilla.
  • Balsamic aromas
Balsamic aromas are usually found in great wines.
Noble wood resin, pine, incense and juniper.
  • Woody aromas
These aromas come from the wood in which the wine has been aged.
Oak, acacia and cigar case.
Taste analysis
The principal phase of the tasting process is referred to as the 'taste examination'. In actual fact, the term 'taste' is incomplete in that taste is just one of the three senses involved at the moment when the wine is tasted.
How is the taste analysis carried out?
The first thing to do is to get the mouth ready for the tasting by sipping a small quantity of wine. The second sip should be larger, holding the wine initially in the front part of the mouth and then moving it all around the mouth. The elements to be taken into consideration during this phase are as follows: the structure, the equilibrium, the intensity of the retronasal sensations (i.e. the aromas) and the persistence.
By 'general structure', we mean the thickness, consistency and body of the wine. The structure is determined by the alcohol and other substances that compose the wine (polyphenols, fixed acids, salts, sugars, glycerine). The structure is less marked in white wines and more marked in red wines.
The taste equilibrium is based on the balance between the soft substances (such as sugars, alcohols and polyalcohols) and the hard substances (tannins, acids and mineral salts) contained within the wine.
The intensity of the sensations is the result of the set of gustative-olfactory sensations perceived indirectly after having moved the wine around in the mouth and swallowed it. During this phase, the fragrances exert considerable influence over the perception of the taste: the easier it is to perceive and identify the impressions, the more intense the retronasal sensation will be.
Last but not least, there is the question of persistence. In wine terms, 'persistence' means the duration of the gustative-olfactory sensations. The longer the memories of the taste and aroma of the wine (before we swallowed it) last, the greater its persistence.
The persistence of the unaltered perception in the mouth varies and can be classified as follows: very persistent (more than 10 seconds), persistent, relatively persistent, not very persistent, short.
Other variables to take into consideration include the smoothness and tannicity of the wine.
Smoothness is a pleasant tactile sensation that is felt throughout the mouth and takes the form of an all-encompassing roundness, due above all to the presence in the wine of glycerine (polyalcohols), but also to the presence of ethyl alcohol, other alcohols and any sugars.
On the basis of its smoothness, a wine can be defined with one of the following terms: sharp-edged (i.e. lacking in smoothness); not very smooth; relatively smooth (typical of young wines with limited structure); smooth (well-structured, mature wines); and doughy (typical of great dessert wines).
Tannicity is a tactile sensation of dryness and roughness that is perceived throughout the mouth and on the surface of the tongue. The more a wine is tannic, the more astringent it is.


Once the three phases of the sensory analysis (visual, olfactory and taste) have been completed, it is possible to draw the final conclusions by considering the state of evolution and the harmony.
State of evolution
This is an evaluation of the wine on the basis of its evolution (age of the wine).


Conserving the Wine
Conservation is an essential aspect in preserving the greatness of a great wine. Here are some basic guidelines on keeping wine in perfect condition:
  • The bottles must be laid down in such a way that the cork remains damp and elastic through contact with the wine itself. If the cork gets too dry, it allows oxygen to enter the bottle, which rapidly causes the wine to degrade.
  • The racks used must be made from wood (to attenuate any vibrations).
  • The ideal temperature range for effective conservation should be between 10°C and 16°C. The temperature should remain as stable as possible.
  • The environment must be dark, distant from sources of heat and not too damp (humidity of around 70%). The cork, which is the most delicate component, must not be allowed to dry out as a result of excessively dry cellar conditions.
  • A good rule of thumb is to place white wines lower down on the racks, where the temperature is cooler, with the red wines up above, where it is warmer. In this way, the wines will be stored at a temperature that is closer to that at which they will be served.
  • It is essential to keep the bottles away from substances or environments that have a strong odour, since this odour can all too easily be transferred to the wine