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Sample of two

A type of tasting; see under wine evaluation.

There are numerous terms for the testing and evaluation of wine by human "smelling and tasting", a few of which are, for example, degustation, tasting, wine tasting and wine tasting. This is a sensory test of the organoleptic properties of a wine with a descriptive explanation of the findings obtained in accordance with defined rules and criteria using generally valid and understandable terms (see also wine talk).

100 WP
95-99 WP
90-94 WP
85-89 WP
80-84 WP

Sensory & analytical assessment

At the relevant events, this is not done in a scientific, analytical manner using technical or other aids, but "only" by the sensory organs such as the eye, nose, palate and tongue. This may then result in an evaluation by awarding points according to various systems. In addition to this, however, there are also ways of carrying out an objective measurement using precise chemical analyses. These include, for example, the determination of alcohol content, total extract, residual sugar, acids, sulphur and other substances.

There is a phenomenon of national preferences and rejections. In general, Austrians and Germans prefer acidic flavours, Italians bitter, Americans sweet and the French astringent, although this should be viewed with caution. The lighting in a room also influences the flavour of the wine. A wine tastes better in red and blue light than in green or white light, as scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz found out. The study showed that the test wine tasted around 1.5 times sweeter under red light than under white or green light. The fruitiness was also rated highest under red light.

Nevertheless, it is not possible to do without a "subjective" test with sensory tasting by humans, but the two methods complement each other and only result in a "fair" judgement when combined. A person can determine the flavour "sweet", but never exactly how many grams of sugar are contained in a litre of wine. Analytical testing, on the other hand, cannot determine whether a wine "tastes good".

Professional tasting

Professional tasters can, however, keep such influencing factors at bay and judge a wine "fairly" and "objectively" by being aware of their personal likes and dislikes and disregarding these as far as possible. However, this ability can only be achieved through years of practice and experience. In order to eliminate the influence of external circumstances such as the lighting mentioned above, professional tastings take place in a sparsely furnished, neutral environment.

The famous English taster Michael Broadbent (1927-2020) tasted over 70,000 wines. However, he does not use any of the scoring systems described below in his evaluations, but instead awards one to five stars. The well-known wine author Hugh Johnson also uses his own system with 12 levels. In addition to theoretical knowledge, the following skills are required: Smelling acuity, the ability to distinguish and remember, the ability to concentrate and the greatest possible objectivity. The perception threshold plays an important role. This is the limit in the mg/l range and below at which a substance can be identified and named.

Bekannte Weinkritiker: E. Peynaud, R. Parker, J. Robinson, M. Broadbent, H. Johnson

Professor Emile Peynaud (1912-2004), one of the most famous wine tasters, wrote the following in his standard work "Hohe Schule für Weinkenner", which has been published several times:

The statement that something is sweet is an objective statement; it characterises the product in question. To say, for example, that a cup of coffee is sufficiently or insufficiently sweet is a subjective statement; it is personal; it depends on a person's drinking habits and taste. But if you say that sugar tastes unpleasant, that you detest everything that is sweet, then you are expressing an affective opinion.

The professional taster must be able to switch off their affectivity. They should not say whether they like or dislike a wine. You don't want to know that from them. He must study the wine, describe it, judge its good or bad organoleptic characteristics and draw conclusions. These will be subjective, but they must not be based on personal preference, at least as little as possible. This is the big and decisive difference to the untrained wine drinker, whose judgement is purely affective."

Panel of tasters

In professional tastings, an otherwise anonymous wine is assessed neutrally by independent, trained tasters under standardised conditions, with knowledge of the origin, vintage, grape variety (if known), quality level and any special oenological processes (e.g. barrique ageing). In order to achieve the necessary significance, the wine assessment must be carried out either by a sufficiently large panel of tasters with at least five tasters or by several anonymous repetitions in different groups. A scientifically reliable statement with 97% accuracy can only be achieved with around 25 tasters/repeats.

Different evaluation results

Even professionals can rate the same wine differently, although this usually only amounts to a few points (if at all). This is not the case with machines, as it can be assumed that scales from different manufacturers will give the same result when weighing an object. This is because the scales are all calibrated and almost identical in terms of their properties. However, this cannot be the case with people, as the palate and tongue, as well as experience and preferences of different people are certainly not the same. A different result is therefore not inevitable, but also not surprising.

An example of an extremely different evaluation is the rating of the red wine from Château Pavie vintage 2003, which was awarded 96/100 points by Robert Parker and 12/20 points by Jancis Robinson (see below for the conversion between the 20 and 100 point system). Accordingly, the 12/20 points from Robinson correspond to 76/100 points - this means a "simple wine without faults". Parker's 96/100 points mean a "great, world-class wine". However, the two did not taste from the same bottle. Two bottles can very well show differences in quality for different reasons, which is known as bottle variance.

As a rule, wine ratings have no scientific validity. If the competition were to be repeated the next day with the same judges and the same wines, the results would not be completely different, but they would probably differ to some extent. In the sense of a scientifically recognised result, however, they would have to be repeatable, i.e. at best completely identical. It can be assumed that the higher the knowledge, experience and professionalism of the tasters, the smaller the differences between two evaluation rounds. See the legendary international competition between France and California under Paris Wine Tasting.

Reason for a tasting

A wine is tasted to determine its quality for various reasons. As part of an official inspection, professional control bodies determine whether the wine fulfils the legal wine requirements. This is the case, for example, when awarding the official test number (Germany) and state test number (Austria) for quality wines, where in addition to the analytical test using chemical and technical aids, a sensory test is also carried out using the sensory organs.

Another reason may be a professionally organised competition in which different wines are tasted, evaluated and awarded prizes according to the results. The third reason can be of a purely private nature. Either to educate oneself, to enjoy wine with friends and talk about it or to determine the best price-performance ratio when buying wine. However, the criteria are very similar, in any case they must be precisely defined and known beforehand so that all tasters start from the same basis.

Procedure & processing

The best time for a tasting is later in the morning, because the sensory organs are at their most receptive and "fresh". A cold, medication, spicy or strongly flavoured food, coffee, sour fruit, tobacco, chewing gum and perfume are disturbing or can have a negative influence. The room should be well...

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