Understanding The Wine Tasting Star

To help you understand how the tasting star works, OregonWines.com has developed this short tutorial, which explains what the star shows, as well as why it has been organized the way it is. We invite you to have a quick read of this tutorial, so you can learn how to interpret each tasting star for the wines listed in our tasting notes section.

1. The Eight Spokes of the Tasting Star

The tasting star is arranged with eight “spokes”. Each spoke represents a different quality of the wine, which we call “flavor factors”. Every wine has a slightly different combination of these qualities, based on how the wine was produced, fermented, aged, and bottled. The eight factors are:

  1. Sweetness – the amount of residual sugar in a wine.
  2. Acidity – the amount of citric, malic, and tartaric acids in a wine.
  3. Tannins – the amount of phenolic compounds in the wine.
  4. Oak – the influence of the oak barrels used to age the wine.
  5. Finish – the length and quality of a wine’s aftertaste.
  6. Complexity – the wine’s overall flavor complexity.
  7. Body – the intensity and richness of the wine.
  8. Balance – how all of the seven preceding factors balance out.

 2. Structure Bands of the Tasting Star

The tasting star is also arranged into three “structure bands”, which represent different parts of the tasting experience. By examining different tasting stars, you can get a feel for the overall tasting experience exhibited by each wine. These bands represent primary and secondary flavors, as well as overall impressions of your tasting experience.

3. Beginning the Tasting Process

Before starting your taste, the tasting star is a blank slate, devoid of any information. By default, the star begins with every spoke at its minimal (or “null”) position. As you begin to enter notes, the star will begin to fill out.

4. Noting Primary Flavors

When you taste a wine, you will first notice its relative level of sweet and sour, a result of how your tastebuds are arranged on your tongue. Consider the following:

  • Sweetness – the amount of residual sugar in a wine, ranging from low (bone dry) to high (sweet). How sweet does the wine taste? Does it make you think of sweet candy or syrup? These are signs of higher sugar (sweetness) content in the wine.
  • Acidity – the amount of citric, malic, and tartaric acids in a wine, ranging from low (flat) to high (biting). Can you detect any sour, sharp, or acidic flavors in this wine? How intense are they? These are signs of higher acidity content in the wine.

4a. Primary Flavors on the Star

This is how the primary characteristics component might appear.

5. Noting Secondary Flavors

Next, you will notice ambient factors, such as bitter flavors (tannins) or oakiness. You will also notice the relative length of the wine’s finish – how long its flavors linger in your mouth after tasting. Consider the following:

  • Tannins – the amount of phenolic compounds, drawn from skins and pips of grapes, which impart a sharp, bitter flavor to the wine. Did you detect any bitter flavors? Did the wine feel chalky or rough in your mouth? Did the wine make you pucker at all? These are signs of higher tannins content in the wine.
  • Oak – the influence of compounds from the oak barrels used to age the wine. When smelling the wine, did you detect any aromas of vanilla, wood, or smoke? When tasting the wine, did it impart a buttery, rich flavor at all? These are all signs of higher oak content in the wine.
  • Finish – the length and quality of a wine’s aftertaste, ranging from brief to endless. After tasting the wine, how long did its flavor remain in your mouth? Can you taste it in the back of your mouth? These are all signs of a longer finish.

5a. Secondary Flavors on the Star

This is how the primary and secondary flavors might appear on the tasting star.

6. Noting Overall Impressions

Next, you will notice ambient factors, such as bitter flavors (tannins) or oakiness. You will also notice the relative length of the wine’s finish – how long its flavors linger in your mouth after tasting. Consider the following:

  • Complexity – how the wine’s sweetness, acidity, tannins, and oak affect the wine’s overall flavor, ranging from simple to complex. Does the flavor have numerous layers and combinations of flavors? These are signs of a more complex flavor structure in the wine.
  • Body – how the wine’s components affect the intensity and richness of the wine’s overall flavor, ranging from weak to potent. How strong is the wine’s flavor? Is it potent or fully-developed? These are signs of a full-bodied wine.
  • Balance – how all of the seven preceding factors balance out, ranging from unbalanced to well-balanced. Overall, how does this wine strike you? Are its seven other factors equal and inline with each other? These are signs of a well-balanced wine.

7. The Completed Tasting Star

This is how a completed tasting star might look, with primary and secondary flavors, and overall impressions noted. Now it is your turn to create your own notes!