Sensory Evaluation -Visuals

To me, a glass of wine brought over to me is exciting.  Well, any glass of wine is exciting to me.   It’s the mystery to see what is in the glass and what it can bring to my senses.  As a sommelier, this is what I see when the glass is presented to me:

  • Is the glass clean or covered with stuff that I’m trying to figure out what it is?
  • Does the wine look healthy and appetizing and appealing?
  • What is the color telling me about the wine?
  • Is this typical of what I’ve ordered?

Now that is a lot to take in but the most important items are the first 2.  Let’s take a moment and talk about each.

  • THE GLASS SHOULD BE CLEAN FROM DEBRIS, PRINTS AND ODORS!!   Ladies and gentlemen, I’m very particular about my glasses.  I do not want to see anything on the outside (or inside stuck to the inside).  Fingerprints ultimately scare me.   My mind starts to wonder off track trying to figure out how you got that fingerprint on the side in that position

Nothing should distract the customer from what’s in the glass.  So please take your time to clean the glass with a microfiber towel or something similar.  Linen napkins tend not to work well.  Just think about yourself wiping your mouth during your meal.  Does it really get absorbed or just kind of smeared off?  It tends to be the latter so think about trying to clean a glass using this.

  • Ok, so we have a clean glass. Next thing is related to health.  Does the wine look good is really what we are asking.  Does the wine look like you want to drink it?   Or does it look hazy, or an unusual color.  Here are a few simple things that I think will help.
  1. When we talk about clarity in the wine, I’m looking for no suspended particles. If there is something, the majority of the time it’s something called sediment.  Sediment just means that the wine was not completely filtered until it’s perfectly clean.  That is not a bad thing at all.  Also, if it’s an older bottle, some of the wine components will break down and form sediment.  Please note that sediment is drinkable but just not pleasant.  Think of it as a little grit in your glass; not the best thing but overall harmless.  This can be removed by decanting which I will post another article about.
  2. The other thing you may run into is something called wine diamonds. These are small crystals that form on the bottom of corks or sometimes on the bottom of the bottle itself.  These are tartrate crystals which is a natural component of wine.  Most wineries will remove these by a process called cold stabilization.  The wine gets chilled down to get it very cold and this allows the crystals to form and drop out.  Then the wine is ‘racked off’ to remove them.  If you run into these crystals, they are harmless as well (great conversation piece).
  3. If I see an orange tone in a red wine (especially around the meniscus – the area where the wine touches the side of the glass), that tells me the wine is aging and needs to be consumed.  It does not mean it’s bad, just that it’s aging and starting to break down.
  4. Is there carbonation (or bubbles) in the glass and it’s not a sparkling wine?  That means some yeast was trapped in the bottle and ate some of the remaining sugar in the wine and produced carbon dioxide which was trapped.   This also does not mean the wine is bad and sometimes can make the wine more refreshing.  One of my favorite wines is Dopff & Irion Alsacian Crustacés which is a great white wine that has some ‘spritz’ in the wine on purpose.  I love this Pinot Blanc with lighter dishes or to consume while cooking to constantly refresh my palate.  (

From the above points, please remember a few things.  Clean glassware is important to let you see the wine in the glass.  More importantly, it starts to build the excitement for what comes next – actually being able to smell and taste the wine to enjoy the glass.


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