One of the first steps in evaluating any wine is to look closely at it. When experts look at a glass of wine, they are assessing a great number of things. Those things include the wine’s color, its intensity, clarity, and several other important characteristics. The clarity of wine is very important. Experts note whether it’s clean, clear, and bright, or cloudy, hazy, and dull. They also want to see if it has legs or tears. All of these things reveal much about the wine’s character.
Steps to Assess Wine Visually
To make a good visual assessment of a wine, you should pour about 1/3 of a glass. Look down into the wine. Next, hold it up to the light. Then tilt the glass slightly and let the wine gently roll toward the edge. This gives you an opportunity to see the entire color range of the wine. Looking down into the wine allows you to see the depth of its color. This can give a hint as to the wine’s density, saturation, and the type of grapes used. Finally, swirl it around.
The side view of the wine allows light to show you its clarity. If it’s clear, brilliant, and sparkling that’s a good sign. A murky look could mean the wine is unfiltered, has fermentation or chemical problems, or was shaken before being served and there’s sediment in it.
When you tilt the glass, the wine thins out as it flows toward the rim. This gives you some insight into the age and weight of the wine. If the wine looks watery and pale near its edge, it may be thin and insipid. On the other hand, if the color is dark it indicates the wine is older, may have been oxidized, or is past its prime. Old white wines look tawny or brown, and old red wines look orange or rusty brick in color.
Swirling the wine around in the glass can also give some useful information about its character. After swirling the wine, look to see if rivulets of wine are running down the side of the glass. Those are called legs or tears and indicate the level of viscosity in the wine. Wines with legs have a higher alcohol and glycerin content. Legs also indicate the wine is more dense, mouth-filling, riper, and bigger.