Wine Blog

Wine Tasting 101 at #WinesOfItaly

So, for this week’s #WinesOfItaly blab on December 1st I was at La Divina Enoteca with the owners Bianca Ciatti and Livio Del Chiaro in Florence. Livio was my guest for the evening, and I had asked him to talk in an easy and laid back way about how you do a guided wine tasting. To say something more about Livio, apart from his enoteca in the centre of Florence, he won the yearly Fisar competition for best sommelier of the year 2014. He is really good at in a clear and concrete way describe and make you understand the main aromas and other traits of a wine.

How to do a wine analysis

For this evening, we chose a bit different wine to not always choose Sangiovese or Nebbiolo or something similar. We thus had a glass of Eretico from the producer San Donatino close to Castellina in Chianti in Tuscany. It is a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Livio started talking about how this is an atypical Cabernet Sauvignon because it is aged in steel vats and not in oak barrels, as is usually the case with grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon. The refinement and ageing in steel vats which preserves all the flavours of the wine, without adding the typical woodsy, vanilla, licorice and black pepper aromas of the oak barrels. Instead, you feel more of the fruits, specifically red fruit and blackberries.

Then we went on to briefly discuss how when you taste a wine, you first observe the colour and its intensity. This can give a hint to whether it is a young or a more aged wine. Then you go on and smell the wine, first of all to check that the wine does not have any defects. Thereafter, you try to recognize the different aromas of the wine. Normally, you first try to distinguish the scents of flowers, fruit, spices, herbs etc. Finally, you then taste the wine to try and analyze the acidity, astringency, saltiness and of course, the most important thing, if you like the wine in question. The acidity stimulates the saliva, and the acidity is also what conserves the wine and makes it prone for aging. Other aspects of a wine tasting we discussed were the aftertaste and finish of a wine, as well as its persistence.

A questions from a fellow blabber

There was a question whether it would be helpful to have a wine aroma kit with synthetic aromas at hand when you taste a wine, in order to help you define the bouquet. Livio here replied that it can help, but that these sort of aroma kits are fairly expensive. He thinks that it is always better, if possible, to have the fresh products at hand and use it as a help to define the different aromas in a wine. Also, because the aroma in a synthetic product is quite different from the real deal.

The question of food and wine pairing

Of course, we entered the discussion of how to pair wine and food also in this blab. This also because one of the main tasks of a sommelier is also to know how to combine a suitable wine to the food you are having. Making it very simple one, of course, can say that you generally pair red wines with meat and white wines fish or vegetables. However, of course, there are many nuances to this as white wines can pair well with white meat and lighter red wines or rosé can go well with fish too. We also discussed regional wine pairings, and being in Florence, took the example of the Florentine steak which does not have a long cooking time. Thus, it needs to be paired with a red quite young, quite tannic wine with a high alcohol percentage, for example, a Chianti Classico or a Chianti wine.

Daring pairings

Livio furthermore talked about how some wine producer in the North of Italy started producing white wines just some year ago, using the same vinification techniques as for the production of red wines. The result is very strong and a bit astringent white wines. These are wines that could be paired with, for example, grilled lamb or pork, i.e. not very fat meat. The other way around, Livio talked about red wines that can be paired with fish. For example, he referred to the Vermentino Nero and other red wines with little or no astringency, i.e, no tannins. This kind of wines you can match with swordfish, smooth dogfish or the traditional fish soup Caciucco from Livorno. Livio referred to how the wine pairing trends, in general, changing and you are starting to do more daring combinations. Here he referred to a wine producer friend of his who had done a wine tasting last year pairing Barolo with sushi. Actually, I discussed this too in an earlier blog article about Luigi Cappellini, the owner of Castello di Verrazzano, and his wine bar Spumantino here in Florence. He too said that it can be fun to try new combinations such as sushi with his Bottiglia Particolare (which is a wine in line with the Supertuscans).

Here you can watch the whole blab below. Sorry about the problems with the echo.

Hope to see you next Tuesday!


Written by Katarina Andersson.



Katarina Andersson

Seen often at wine events streaming live, Katarina is a wine writer, wine educator, social media strategist, and translator. She is the founder of WinesOfItaly LiveStream. She has been a guest at The Cellar, hosted by Richard Glover, at Wine Two Five, a podcast hosted by Stephanie Davis and Valerie Caruso, and at the Twitter chat #WiningHourChat founded by Li Valentine.

12 thoughts on “Wine Tasting 101 at #WinesOfItaly”

  1. Great to do an interactive informative “class” on wine tasting on Blab, so that curious wine lovers can join the conversation. As someone who doesn’t drink, I am fascinated by the “art” of wine tasting and getting to develop your own palette and ability to smell the differences. It must be fun to continue to learn more about the various wines from these experts you mingle with.

    • Thanks Beverley, yes it is a fascinating world, and you learn a lot every time and also by reading more and more, as wine is history and culture, and a sort of craftmanship.

  2. Katarina, The wine producer in the North of Italy, did he/she start producing white wines using the same vinification techniques as for red wines on purpose or from a lack of knowledge in how to produce white wines?

  3. This is great Katarina and right on line with what we are working on… take this and make it just about wine pairings or different options in a bulleted or numbered list and that would be perfect!

  4. I’ve never heard of a wine aroma kit, that sounds so cool! I don’t know if my taste buds are dull or if my stuffed sinuses work against me, but I am not good at wine tasting at all. However, I can almost always tell when a wine has black pepper because I’m not a fan of it! 😉

    • Aroma kits are quite well known among wine enthusiasts, but as Livio said they are synthetic aromas, and a kit is quite expensive. So it is always better if you can find the real deal, like tomatoe leaves, spices, vanilla, fruit, flowers etc. And do not worry, it takes quite a while to train your nose to recognize the flavors…for the first year while doing the sommelier course I did not feel anything, and thought I was quite dumb…then slowly it came and I started recognizing what they were talking about etc. 🙂

    • One would think that, but steel vats actually preserve the flavors of the wine in itself as they are, while wood being a much more vivid materia, transfer a lot of flavors and taste to wine, such as the wood taste in itself and vanilla etc.


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