The toughest part of my job…

OCCASIONS / Friday, October 19th, 2018

Right, now, where were we?

Oh yes, I was going to tell you all about Rob’s recent Vertical Shiraz Tasting.

In the interests of bringing you the most up to date information from Somerled, I put my hand up to participate in the tasting. Well, someone had to do it. For research purposes only of course!

We hosted almost 30 tasters over two days. Eagerly gathered around the long table, we tasted some amazing wines, Rob shared his wealth of knowledge by answering all our questions, blah, blah blah, fun was had by all, the end.


You don’t really want me to tell you that you missed out on a very rare opportunity to taste some quickly disappearing back vintages side by side, pick Rob’s brain and truly understand what a master he is… do you? Personally, I think you’d be better off getting involved next time (is there going to be a “next time”?)! Or, host your own at home with our new virtual tastings (more to come on this!).

Instead, let’s take a look at “tastings” in general and how to taste wine like a pro!


Why is it called a vertical tasting?

There are two types of tastings when it comes to comparing differences between the same wine variety or type (so, Shiraz in this example).

A vertical tasting compares different vintages of the same wine type from the same winery. Participants progress up (or down) through vintages of the same wine. In our recent tasting 2005, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 vintages of Somerled Shiraz were tasted side by side. It really emphasises the difference between the vintages. Ideally, the region would also be the same across all vintages, but our 2005 Shiraz was from Rob and Heather’s vineyard on Kangaroo Island. There is still merit in including this wine given the similarities in climate.

In a horizontal tasting, the wines are from the same vintage but are from different wineries. Keeping both the wine variety AND the wine region the same enables tasters to identify differences in winery styles more easily.



There are four steps to tasting wine.  This is precisely how the pros do it. Don’t let that put you off though… it is actually quite a simple and straightforward process.

1. Look

Unless you’re doing a “blind tasting” (one in which you are given little or no information about the wine you are tasting), you don’t need to spend too much time on this step. Looking at the wine will give you clues about its age, variety, sugar and alcohol content. But you should be able to find all of this on the label.

When you tilt your glass on a 45ยบ angle against a white background it should look clear and bright. It should not be cloudy or hazy. Now, I know some of you are going to pull me up here and tell me that some wines these days ARE cloudy. You are right. But if you’re looking at a wine that is not of that style, then it shouldn’t be. And that’s all I’m going to say on the topic!

As wines age, they lose some vibrancy in colour and slowly takes on a slightly brownish hue. This is something to look for in aged wines.

2. Smell

Before you take a sniff, it really is important to swirl the wine around the glass. This ensures that the wine fully releases its aromas. But don’t get all dramatic about it! If you’re prone to spilling it over the edge like I’ve been known to do, start by practising on a flat surface. 

When you begin smelling wine, don’t get too specific. That can get pretty frustrating if you’re trying to identify one particular aroma. Think in broad categories. For example… when you smell our Sauvignon Blanc, it’s easier to pick up on the “tropical fruit” aromas than something more specific like passionfruit.

There are three levels of aromas which we have touched on before. It’s worth revisiting them quickly though…

  • Primary Aromas: these come from the grape, including fruits, herbs, and floral notes.
  • Secondary Aromas: come from winemaking practices, such as those that come from the yeast.
  • Tertiary Aromas: are derived from ageing the wine in bottle and possibly oak

Smell the wine with just 2 or 3 full quick sniffs. Anything more may lead to confusion or fatigue. 

3. Taste

This is the step we’ve been waiting for!

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind…

  • Taste: Our tongues are capable of detecting salty, sour, sweet, or bitter. Saltiness is something you’ll rarely find in a wine The levels of the other three though will vary depending on variety, climate and style.
  • Texture: Our tongues can also perceive texture. Textural wines are usually those with higher-alcohol. We also can detect tannin with our tongue. The way that tannin interacts with saliva leads to the drying sensation fo red wines.
  • Length: There is always a beginning, middle (mid-palate) and end (finish) to the taste of wine. Take a look at this great tasting profile diagram I found over at Wine Folly.

4. Think

… and discuss! Find out what other people think and don’t be afraid to share your thoughts.


And there you have it! Actually, no… I’m going to add a fifth step:

ENJOY! After all, that’s what drinking wine should be all about.


Something new…

We’ve been working on something new for our Jockey Club members this week. If you’re a member of the club, then you know that we always include Rob’s tasting notes with your wines. In your November pack though you will receive the notes AND access to a special video! 

We are literally filming this video as I type… Lucy and Rob are having a lovely chat about your next two wines – 2015 Tempranillo and our brand new release of 2017 Fume Blanc.

Keep an eye out for it and let us know what you think!

Not a member? JOIN NOW

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *