Welcome to the first steps to start you on your path to understanding and enjoying wine.
In this book you will learn about the “The Big Six” wine grapes , why they are and what are
the classics. We will also examine the difference between each classic grape.
We will also learn about How to Taste “Back to Basics” the fundamentals of wine tasting.
My motto is “Discoveries” To enhance the mind and palate to various wines of the world,
one wine at a time.
“Let Your Palate Be The Guide”
Larschelby E. Kidd
Body Style White Red
Light Riesling Pinot Noir
Medium Sauvignon Blanc Merlot
Full Chardonnay Cabernet
The Classic Wine Grapes
Out of the hundreds of wine grapes produced, it’s a wonder how anyone can remember the grape that they enjoy.
Tonight we would like to focus on just six of them, three white and three red that we like to call the Classics. The white
grapes are Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. The reds are Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
These classic wine grapes are the “backbone”, literally, of about 80 percent of the quality wine sold in this
country. The classics can be grown successfully in almost every winemaking country in the world, so you can find them
anywhere. They offer something for everyone in terms of style.
Tasting the Classics has two purposes. First, you will get to know what the wines made from these important
grapes tastes like. Second, when they are tasted side by side, they are quite distinct from one another. Third, you get to
experience body, light, medium or full. “Body” is a textural sensation, the feeling of weight, richness, and thickness in the
How does body factor into the Classic tasting? Refer to the following chart:
• Descriptors: Green apple, lemon, peach, apricot, honey, floral, citrus, spice, mineral
• Thrilling racy acidity of the Mosel. Opulent, rich, spicy flavors of the Pfalz & Rheingau.
• Rieslings produced in Alsace (France) tend to be more alcoholic than the German examples.
• Riesling has a strong personality, one that is better off without any oak influence.
• The range in styles is from dry to intensely sweet.
• Riesling has the potential to age for many years.
• Rieslings should have a vivid fruitiness and lively balanced acidity.
• Riesling can also produce a sparkling wine called “Sekt” in Germany.
• Descriptors: Lime, grapefruit, grass, gooseberry, hay, asparagus, mineral.
• Most Sauvignon Blanc’s are best-consumed young, when the wines fruit is most noticeable.
• Oak ageing tends to mask rather than enhance its natural crisp acidity. In top Sauvignons, oak can add
richness and longevity to the wine
• A distinctively crisp, mineral, flinty style in the Loire Valley (France). Pleasant, fresh, citrus style on its
own or blended with Semillon in Bordeaux.
• Grassy, gooseberry flavors are found from Spanish winemakers. Intensity of fruit with mouth-watering
acidity in New Zealand’s Marlborough region.
• Descriptors: apple, peaches, citrus, tropical fruits, butterscotch, vanilla, spice, minerals
• Chardonnay grown in a cool region, such as Chablis & Burgundy, is leaner, drier and crisper without the
presence of barrel aging.
• Chardonnay grown in warmer regions has more pronounced fruit taste with and without oak aging.
• Unoaked Chardonnay has crisp, clean fruit flavors (drier in Burgundy, riper in the Southern Hemisphere-
Australia).Oaked Chardonnay is elegant creamy, nutty and toasty.
• Chardonnay is also used to make champagne and sparkling wines.
The Classic Grapes
• Descriptors: Cherry, clove, cinnamon, black pepper, cranberries, earth.
• Before the movie “Sideways” there was always Pinot Noir from France’s Burgundy area. If you drank French
burgundy wine since the 70’s you were drinking a Pinot Noir.
• It is a variety of relatively low tannin and acidity, medium rather than deep color.
• In hotter climates Pinot Noir tends to develop a more deeply fruity character.
• Pinot Noir is also used to make French style champagne and New World sparkling wines.
• Descriptors: Plum, currants, cherry, roses, spices, mint.
• It is more widely planted and is the backbone of the worlds most sought after wines, blended with Cabernet Franc,
• Merlot is generally a soft fruity red, though in the hands of a skilled winemaker will develop a particularly velvety
texture or rich and full bodied.
• New World winemakers’ tend to produce fruitier, smooth, easy drinking reds from light to medium bodied.
• Descriptors: Currants, olive, bell pepper, mint, raspberry, chocolate, coffee, tobacco
• An old world classic producing big, fat, bold red wines. Old world styles producing dry, tannic, full-bodied, age
• New world wines especially in warmer climates produce a fruitier style supported with a richness and roundness
from barrel aging.
• Other wines produced are Rose’s and Port Style wines.
The Classic Grapes
I. Drinking or Tasting
It’s easy to drink wine-we just put it in our mouths and swallow. However, the most we can expect to learn from the
experience is whether or not we like the wine. Maybe that’s all we care to know. Fair enough.
Tasting wine, on the other hand, is different in that we want the wine to reveal more about itself. We want to be able to
“read” a wine. We want to determine the difference between a good wine and a better wine, or if it deserved the high
score it received in the press. Ultimately, we just want to trust our own palates so that we can make our own decisions.
But anyone can learn to taste wine. Sure, there are a few procedures to learn, but then it’s just practice, practice,
practice. That’s the fun part.
Here is one secret to becoming a good wine taster. The secret is, concentrating on the wine; become one with the
wine being tasted, sounds like meditation, yes, but with a twist you get to enjoy good bottles of wine along the way.
It is important that you take notes on the wines you taste. Collected notes can serve as an anthology of the wines
you’ve enjoyed. Notes can help you give practical reference to the wines you have tasted and help you recall your
impressions. Another reason for writing down your thoughts is that, writing notes forces you to organize and focus
your thoughts and concentrate on what it is you are tasting. Listed below are tried and true steps to tasting wine (with
our own little twists).
III. The Procedures for Tasting Wine
When tasting wines we use all of our senses:
Touch (part of taste)
For touch (tongue), consider the texture, the weight, and even the temperature of the wine in our mouths. Our main
focus will be on the sight, smell, and taste. When you approach a glass of wine, its important to think about each sense
individually. Here is the procedure for tasting wine:
•Make sure you have good lighting
•A white background such as a napkin or piece of white paper-(no lines)
•Comfortable atmosphere (temperature of area)
•If at all possible no perfumes or cologne
•Glasses 4.5 oz. (minimum) tulip shape with stem
•Amount of wine to pour 1.5-2 oz.
•Pitcher of cool water (not iced)
•Napkins, pencils, note paper
Serving Temperature for wines:
Before beginning, determine the ideal serving temperature for the wine you will taste. See chart below.
Sweet White Wine 45 degrees F
Dry White Wine 50-55 degrees F
Very Light Red Wine 52 degrees F
Young Red Wine 46-58 degrees F
Mature Red Wine 60-64 degrees F
How to Taste Wine (The Basics)
How to Taste Wine (The Basics)
Step 1: Sight (Look)
When we look at a wine, we should tilt the glass at a 45-degree angle. This will spread the wine out and give you a
When we look at a wine, we should think about two things: Color and Clarity.
White wine colors will range from clear as water to golden in color often times associated with the intensity of the
wine, but, by no means is this an indication of it’s complexity (you must taste the wine for that)
Red wine colors will range from deep purple to brick red with orange hues, it can sometimes be used as a clue to
maturity, the deeper the color the younger the wine. To be used as a guide.
For marketing and appearance the wine would have gone through some type of filtering process giving it a beautiful
brilliance in the glass. However, if you should encounter a wine that has little floating particles, it’s most often a part
of the wine and in most cases harmless. It could be things such as` cork, sediment or crystals (tartaric acid) if you find
this unappealing please, decant it.
Step 2: Swirl & Smell
Note: If you are new to swirling, here’s a tip, leave the glass sitting flat on it’s base on the table while holding the stem
or base, rotate the glass either right or left in a circular motion. Experienced swirlers have at it!
Two things are accomplished with swirling:
Agitation and air. In this case oxygen is your friend, the swirling mixes and incorporates air with the juice in order to
help release its aromas (this is the non-scientific explanation).
2. When you stop swirling observe a light or thick coating that adheres to the inside of the wine glass as the juice
begins to settle, this is what is called the wines “legs” it can give us some idea as to the body or weight of the wine.
Guideline (for body or weight):
Light bodied wines (not sweet) 11-12 % alcohol
Medium bodied wines 12-13 % alcohol
Full bodied wines 13-14 % alcohol
Although 14 % and above may seem too alcoholic if other components are not in balance.
After we’ve finished swirling, it’s time to smell and communicate what we smell. There is no right or wrong in this
phase but only your opinion of the impression the wine reveals to you. However, sharing your findings is encouraged.
Hover your nose on the inside of the glass and inhale long (about 10-15 seconds) slow and deep. This will set the brain
registers for what’s next. Think about what you smell, but don’t write it down just yet. Give it another swirl and draw
in more of the wine’s aroma.
Here’s what we do:
1-5 seconds, gives me my first impression often times fruit.
5-10 seconds I receive more of the wine’s vapor and it reveals more of itself.
10-15 seconds is when the wine gives me its lasting impression, the finish.
For some you may have to swirl and sniff a few times, its okay you’re just maybe out of practice. So practice, practice,
practice! (Now you begin to write down your thoughts and share with others about your findings.)
Step 3: Taste
The moment of glory. You should expect to taste what pre-registered with the smell/nose phase, but sometimes there is
a beautiful surprise hidden in the glass that will be received from tasting the wine.
To taste wine you must have a basic understanding of the components of your taster (tongue) and the wine itself.
Tongue: We measure basic sensations upon taste
1. Sweetness, at the tip
2. Acid/sour and salt, on the sides (although you shouldn’t taste salt, but being a mineral its possible.
3. Tart on the back
These combine with the smell create flavor, it’s that simple.
Wine: The four most important components are:
2. Tannin (cotton mouth) may be a sign of the wine needing to rest awhile.
4. Alcohol (too much and the wine will feel hot or burning)
Without these components present, you will just simply be drinking water (which is also a component of wine).
So your job as the taster of wine is to:
• Identify each component
• Determine if the combination of each is in/out of balance (think of a lemon/lime martini).
Note: because of the difference and tolerance in tastes this is all subjective, so, you can’t be wrong. This is the beauty
of tasting wine. One taster’s dislike is another one’s “diamond in the rough”.
What you are looking for is harmony in your mouth.
What is this? Ask yourself these questions:
• What is the mouth feel? Meaning: rich, full, heavy, light, dry, tannic, etc.
• How do the components spread? Meaning: sweet only, tart only, just all tannins etc.
• Do I only taste alcohol?
• Is there a balance, each being somewhat equal and not overpowering the other.
• What is it about the wine that I like or dislike?
Now, that you have a clear picture. Drink up. Take a little of the wine into your mouth, say about ¼ of it, swirl it
around inside to coat all of your mouth. Do this for about 5 seconds, now spit or swallow.
In wine tasting this is not impolite, because you will want to stay in focus, as you taste more wines, so it’s encouraged.
Some people say, “If it’s in my glass I’m not going to waste it.” Make sure during your tasting you have water on the
ready if you choose to partake in swallowing, please pace yourself. It’s also said, “After awhile it all tastes the same.”
So let’s be fair to every bottle tasted, and let’s drink responsibly. Thank you.
The Finish: Aftertaste or Afterthought
Now, you can write down your thoughts and explore with others.
How to Taste Wine (The Basics)
Riesling - Green apple, lemon, peach, apricot, honey, floral, citrus, spice
Sauvignon Blanc - Lime, grapefruit, grass, gooseberry, hay, asparagus, mineral
Chardonnay - apple, peaches, citrus, tropical fruits, butterscotch, vanilla, spice, minerals
Trebbiano- Citrus, Green Apple, Nuts
Frontenac Gris - Apricot, Lemon, Citrus, Tropical
Chenin Blanc- Mineral, Faint Honey, Flowers, Acidic, Crisp Apples, Apricots, Nuts
Muscat- Grapes, Oranges, Raisins, Roses, Spice
Chasselas- Green Apple, Citrus, Peach
Semillon- Low Acid, Figs, Cigars, Citrus, Wax, Tropical Fruits, Honey, Toast
Gewurztraminer – Flowers, Lychee, Passion fruit
Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio – Peach, Spices, Apricot
Viognier-Floral, Peach, Apricot
Pinot Noir - Cherry, clove, cinnamon, black pepper, cranberries, earth
Merlot - Plum, currants, cherry, roses, spices, mint
Cabernet Sauvignon - Currants, olive, bell pepper, mint, raspberry, chocolate, coffee, tobacco
Grenache- Peppery, Raspberry, Sweet Fruit, Herbal
Blaufrankisch- Black Berry, Licorice, Black Currant
Sangiovese- Tart Cherry, Spices, Tobacco, Herbs
Dornfelder- Blackberry, Sweet Red Pepper, Currant
Frontenac- Black Cherry, Plum, Black Currant
Pinotage- Red Fruits, Chocolate, Spice
Syrah-Shiraz- Raspberries, Blackberries, Black Currants, Pepper, Spices, Leather, Tar, Smoke
Malbec- Spice, Cherry, Strawberry, Raspberry
Foch- Dark berries, dark chocolate, coffee
Aromas and Tastes
Vegetal/Floral Nut/Spice Sweet Earthy/Woody Fruity Other Aromas
Asparagus Almond Butterscotch Burnt Wood Blackberry Currant Pineapple Leather
Mushroom Hazelnut Caramel Ash Raspberry Strawberry Apple Yeast
Red Pepper Walnut Chocolate Compost Apricot Cherry Pear Tobacco
Mint Clove Cream Peach Plum Grapefruit Coffee
Honeysuckle Licorice Honey Lemon Lime Melon
Rose Petal Nutmeg Vanilla
• Finish: The lasting impression (similar to after-taste) of wine.
• Legs: The streaks that form on a wine glass when the wine is swirled.
• Nose: The complex, complete smell of wine.
• Tannin: A natural substance in many wines, that gives the mouth a dry feeling.
• Woody: The taste of wood that wine can pick up if it’s been kept in a wooden barrel too long.
• After-taste: The taste left in your mouth after you swallow.
• Astringent: That puckery feeling in your mouth caused by wine that has a lot of tannin.
• Balance: When tannin, acid and fruitiness are pleasantly combined.
• Body: The feeling of the wine in your mouth. A wine can be full, medium, or light-bodied.
• Bouquet: The complex fragrance of a wine.
• Aroma: Simple fruity smell of the grape variety.
1. Varietal The type of grape used in making the wine.
Did you know? In order to be a varietal, 75% of the wine must be of that varietal. For example, if Paul were to blend
30% Petite Sirah into our Zinfandel, we could no longer call it a Zinfandel. However, if he wanted to blend in 24.9%,
we could still call it a Zinfandel.
2. Estate Grown or Estate Bottled The winery has grown the winegrapes on its own land. Technically, it means that
the winery has complete control over the vineyard practices where the grapes are grown.
Did you know? The Estate designation is the strictest of the government labeling standards and can only be used if
100% of the grapes are grown by the winery and all of the wine is made on the premises.
3. Vintage The year the grapes were grown is the year on the label. A winery may add up to 5% of a different vintage
wine and still retain the vintage designation.
Did you know? It actually takes years to make one vintage of fine wine. From harvest to fermentation to barrel aging
to bottling and then bottle aging, our finest wines are on the premises for up to five years.
4. Appellation This shows the legally designated area, called the American Viticultural Area, or AVA, where the
grapes were grown. An El Dorado appellation means that at least 75% of the grapes were grown in the El Dorado
Did you know? If Madroña were to purchase grapes from Amador to blend with our Estate grapes, then the wine
would be labeled under the broader “Sierra Foothills” AVA. Many wines on store shelves these days have the broadest
appellation in our state, simply called “California.” This means that they are either a mix of AVA’s, or that the vintner
declines to state the AVA, either for marketing reasons or winemaking flexibility.
5. Alcohol Percent by volume alcohol usually runs between 13 and 15 for California wines.
Did you know? Alcohol is the byproduct of the yeast eating the sugar in the crushed grape juice, so the riper your
grapes, the higher the alcohol.
6. Produced and Bottled By In order to label a wine as “produced and bottled by," the winery has to have made at
least 75% of the wine on its own premises.
Did you know? If a wine simply says “Bottled by” it is possible that the wine was made by someone else and bought
in bulk by the winery on the label.
7. Government Warning This is a federal mandate that all U.S. wines must carry this warning.
Did you know? There have been various efforts to get a “health advisory” message on the label recommending the
responsible use of wine in a healthy diet.
8. Sulfites The statement “Contains Sulfites” indicates that sulfites were used in the winemaking process.
Did you know? Sulfites are naturally occurring substances found in grapes, and all wine has small amounts of sulfites
regardless of whether the winemaker uses them in the winery. Both naturally occurring and added sulfites are found in
many everyday foods.
How to read a Wine Label
(See label on page 11)
How to read a Wine Label Sample Journal Note Page
Wine Port Sherry Sparkling
Principle Grape or Blend
Retail Selling Price
Red White Rose
Fruity Sweet Tannic Dry
Med Light Heavy Alcohol %