Wine Tasting & Marking Notes

 

Wine Scoring

Neville Richardson

In late 2021 the CBWS committee decided to change the method used for scoring wines at monthly gatherings of members. The previous methodology was felt to have run its course and needed refreshing. Under the new and deliberately simplified approach, members are being encouraged to score each wine based predominantly on its merits by comparison with other wines from the same grape or category and not based on their own preference. (ie Answering the question; Is this a good wine? as opposed to; Do I like this type of wine?)

The principal changes (and deliberate omissions compared with other scoring systems) are;

-no guidance is given on marks in order to encourage personal expression of feelings and to encourage use of a full spectrum of scores. Wine tasting is a personal experience and members should freely give their own opinions, rather than be guided into narrow ranges. Our general approach is only to serve wines which may be described in overall terms as good, very good, or occasionally outstanding;

-no scores are given for appearance. We will not serve wines which have a poor appearance and are not asking members to guess the grape, the age, or the maturation method of the wine, though the presenter will usually comment on these;

– no score is given for, alcohol level – this will be seen on the label;

– no separate score is given for body as this is covered by the other scores.

The new scoring system scores wines out of 100 points, divided into five categories each of 20 points, as follows;

NOSE – Members will smell the wine, usually after swilling it around the glass to release the aromas and flavours. A tip here is to cover the glass with one hand whilst holding the stem or base firmly with the other hand then release the cover and assess the nose. What we are looking for here is intensity, number and variety of flavours, and how complex are the flavours. A guide to the types of flavours which we may encounter is given below in the WSET Level 4 Wine-Lexicon. Generally, the more identifiable aromas then the more complex the wine and typically the higher the score. In our tastings we do not want to feel restricted by wondering whether our answer is right or wrong. If one person thinks that the wine has aromas of apple and pear and another thinks lemon and lime, they’re probably both right!

PALATE – After smelling the aromas, we move on to the taste, swilling a small amount around our mouth. The expectation is that we will identify the same flavours as on the nose as most of our taste sensation is actually a reflection of what we identify in our noses. We may identify more complexity or more flavours or merely confirm our thoughts based on the nose (again guided by the WSET Lexicon below). Generally, the more identifiable tastes, then the more complex the wine and the higher the score.

BALANCE – This is an overall judgement of the wine to assess how well in balance is the wine, considering the fruit, acidity, tannins (red wines only) and alcohol. If the sensation after tasting is only of, say, acidity, tannins or alcohol burn, this will probably score lower. If however there is an elegant combination of the tannins, acidity, identifiable flavours and alcohol then it will score higher. (As a reminder, acidity is assessed by swallowing a small quantity of wine then tipping the head forwards with mouth closed – a higher level of salivation identifies the presence of higher acidity. Acidity leads to an impression of freshness and sometimes minerality and is essential for breaking down fruit and tannins in the maturation process, so will be present in all wines. Tannins are identified by swilling red wine around the mouth, swallowing, then considering the extent to which the teeth and gums feel coated/sticky or furry – the higher the presence of these then the higher the level of tannins. More experienced tasters may then identify smoother (soft, velvety) from harsher (grainy, rougher) tannins.

FINISH – This is one of the easiest categories to score. Basically it reflects how long you have a pleasant taste in your mouth after swallowing the wine. An unpleasant taste will receive a very low score, a pleasant taste which disappears after 20 seconds or so, will receive a medium score and a very pleasant taste remaining in the mouth for a couple of minutes will receive a very high score.

OVERALL IMPRESSION – This category does allow members to say whether they liked this wine. The above categories should not be swayed by personal preference. For example, an individual may not have a preference for oaked Chardonnay, but if this is being tasted and is a very good example of this type of wine it should score highly on the above four categories. However, if the taster does not like oaked Chardonnay the overall impression to this taster will not be good and will receive a lower score in this category.

Enjoy your tasting and follow the maxim of Chester Osborn, owner of the excellent Australian winery d’Arenburg, who says that ‘Wine should be a very serious business until the cork is taken out of the bottle – then it should be fun’.

Main Wine Tasting & Marking Notes

WSET Level 4 Wine-Lexicon

supporting the WSET Level 4 Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine®

DESCRIBING AROMA AND FLAVOUR
Primary Aromas and Flavours
The aromas and flavours of the grape and alcoholic fermentation
Floral blossom, elderflower, honeysuckle, jasmine, rose, violet
Green fruit apple, pear, gooseberry, grape
Citrus fruit grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange
Stone fruit peach, apricot, nectarine
Tropical fruit banana, lychee, mango, melon, passion fruit, pineapple
Red fruit redcurrant, cranberry, raspberry, strawberry, red cherry, red plum
Black fruit blackcurrant, blackberry, blueberry, black cherry, black plum
Herbaceous green bell pepper (capsicum), grass, tomato leaf, asparagus
Herbal eucalyptus, mint, fennel, dill, dried herbs (e.g. thyme, oregano)
Spice black/white pepper, liquorice, cinnamon
Fruit ripeness unripe fruit, ripe fruit, dried fruit, cooked fruit
Other e.g. simple, wet stones, candy
Secondary Aromas and Flavours
The aromas and flavours of post-fermentation winemaking
Yeast (lees, autolysis, flor) biscuit, pastry, bread, toasted bread, bread dough, cheese, yogurt, acetaldehyde
Malolactic conversion butter, cream, cheese
Oak vanilla, cloves, coconut, cedar, charred wood, smoke, chocolate, coffee
Tertiary Aromas and Flavours The aromas and flavours of maturation
Red wine dried fruit (e.g. prune, raisin, fig), cooked fruit (e.g. cooked plum, cooked cherry), leather, earth, mushroom, meat, tobacco, wet leaves, forest floor, caramel
White wine dried fruit (e.g. dried apricot, raisin) orange marmalade, petrol (gasoline), cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, almond, hazelnut, honey, caramel
Deliberately oxidised wines almond, hazelnut, walnut, chocolate, coffee, caramel