Chapter 5: Tasting Oregon Wines

What is meant by “wine clarity”?

Wine clarity refers to the amount of undissolved matter floating in a wine.

A wine with greater clarity appears purer. Light passing through a wine with great clarity appears sharp and brilliant. This rule of thumb goes for all wines, including red wines with great depth of color.

A wine with less clarity may appear cloudy or hazy when viewed in a wine glass.

Clarity is commonly used as a measure of quality, as it directly relates to how much or how little a wine was fined (refined) during its production. A wine with greater clarity is thought to be purer and of higher quality.

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In what order should I taste wines: white to red, or vice versa?

The rule of thumb is taste wines in this order: white to red, dry to sweet.

By starting with lighter, dryer wines, your palette will be able to sense their gentler characteristics, and not become overwhelmed by fuller-bodied wines.

As you taste additional wines, your palette may become accustomed to the wines, even “numbed” a bit. By working from light-white, towards more potent and full bodied red wines, your palette will always have something new and additional to pick out and sense.

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What is the difference between a “sweet wine” and a “dry wine”?

The primary difference between a sweet wine and dry wine is in their sugar content.

A dry wine may contain less than 1% residual sugars, or less than .5% for a “bone dry” wine (below which a human palette can detect no sugars).

On the other hand, a sweet (or dessert) wine may contain 20% or more residual sugar. Some late harvest dessert wines contain upwards of 25% residual sugars.

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Would I like wine with a “forward flavor”, or one with a “softer flavor”?

Wines with a forward flavor have brighter, fruitier flavors.

Softer wines have a mellower range of flavors and aromas.

The best way to find out is simply sample many different varietals and kinds of wine: red, white, sweet, dry, dessert, and so forth.

You should consider asking a tasting room employee at a local winery, as they are well versed in helping locate specific ranges of wines for their clients, and will be sure to help find a wine that appeals to you. Not only that, they are friendly, and will gladly share their knowledge with you, something not always possible in other settings.

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