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Drinking Wine Starts with Your Eyes

Look at a glass of wine; it starts with your eyes. Just like food, your initial taste a wine starts with your eyes. The color of a wine tells you a lot about the wine.

To fully understand the ramifications of the color, in this case, it helps to have a minor understanding of how a wine should look for its grape varietal, age and growing season. For now, we are going to focus on Bordeaux wine, which is most often a blend dominated by either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. For a young Bordeaux wine, the wine should be dark, displaying a depth of color from the rim to the center of the glass.

One helpful hint is, when looking at a wine, hold out the glass and tilt it a bit. Try to hold the wine over a white surface like a white tablecloth, plain white plate, napkin or blank surface. At this point, you need to notice the depth of color from the rim to the center of the glass.

The color can feature purple or dark blue, often shiny accents. Deeper and richer colors let the taster know this is a concentrated wine. For my palate, concentration and depth of flavor is a good thing. Young wines that lack good color are going to be lighter less ripe and more acidic in style. That is natural for wines made from Pinot Noir. For young wines produced using Bordeaux varieties, you want to see a good, rich, deep color.

The depth of color is also a good, beginning indicator of a wines style. An inky, dark hued Bordeaux is probably going to be intense, mouth filling lower in acid and long. Young Bordeaux or young Bordeaux styled wines with light colors are going to be lighter in flavor, with more red fruits than black and brighter in acidity.

Next in your visual evaluation of the wine is the legs or tears on the side of the glass. This is not all that important. You can skip ahead to the next paragraph if you like. But as you have probably heard many people remark on the tears or legs in a wine, if you did not skip ahead, let’s cover it now.

The size of the tears (drops) or legs (drips) of the wine. The size of the tears or legs and the length of time they remain in the glass give a glimpse into the wines potential alcohol level and sweetness, as well as the viscosity (gooeyness) of the wine. Thin legs that dissipate quickly are found in lighter, less concentrated wines. While fatter, or more athletic legs that remain on the glass speak of a rich, concentrated wine with lots of fruit, sweetness, and length.

It’s important to note, the legs and tears of wine are related to the grape variety and the country the wine was made in. For Bordeaux styled wines, we want large tears that stay in the glass. Legs and tears will let you know a little about the alcoholic content and level of sweetness in the wine, they are not an indicator that you will like the wine, or not.

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