The old saying, “You only have one chance to make a first impression,” certainly applies to dating and job interviews.
But what about wine? Most of the time, a first impression will be identical to the last impression. Not always, though.
First impressions of wine are calculated through one’s eyes and nose. Both the color of the wine and its aroma can tell us much about it. Not everything, but a lot.
Let’s start with the color. If a wine has a brownish hue, it could be a sign that it’s on its last legs or has already gone bad.
In the case of older wines that have been stored properly, the brown color may show up only around the edges of the glass, ringing the wine’s natural or perhaps somewhat deepened color. When that’s the case, it’s time to drink up; each additional minute of air exposure will rob the wine of some of its original, natural flavor.
Among white wines, a transparent or nearly so appearance typically means that the wine is light bodied and possibly not overly flavorful—fine for a refreshing quaff, but not likely to provide a defining culinary moment.
If you want to see what a wine really looks like, hold the glass against a white tablecloth or some other white background.
Even more revealing than a wine’s color is its aroma—also known as its “nose.” Smelling a wine can be almost as enjoyable as drinking it, which makes sense since most of a wine’s flavors should mirror its aromas.
The nose is one’s first line of defense against a wine that’s said to be “corked.” If you smell sawdust and mold, the wine won’t be pleasant to drink.
Among the positive aromas that may waft from a wineglass are various types of flowers, fruit, herbs and spices—all or some of which will go on to be experienced by the tastebuds.
If you drink a bottle’s contents quickly, the aromas and flavors should be nearly identical. But patience can be rewarded, because as a wine opens up over several hours, it may reveal even more beguiling nuances. When assessing a wine, we always taste it right after the bottle has been opened, then an hour later, three hours later and six hours later.
Why? Because each successive sampling provides a clue as to how long the wine is capable of aging gracefully.