Wine Enthusiast Thibaut de Roux Looks at How to Evaluate Wine Like the Professionals

23rd July 2019


Wine tasting is a pastime enjoyed by many, from professionals seeking the best vintages to serve in high-class restaurants, to groups of friends getting together to appreciate new flavours. Evaluating wine requires more in-depth skills than simply tasting wine, with a deeper knowledge of the wine-making process required for critical evaluation.

Thibaut de Roux is a wine enthusiast who has taken his passion to a higher level of understanding. Enrolled at the Burgundy University, Thibaut de Roux studies the vinification, viticulture and maturation process and has a personal collection of more than 2,000 fine wines.

There is no such thing as right or wrong when it comes to tasting and enjoying wine, but to truly evaluate a wine requires a honing of the senses and an accumulation of knowledge. There are several stages of evaluation that take place before any tasting actually occurs.

People say of food that the first taste is with the eyes, and this is equally true of wine. However, we also form opinions and make judgements subconsciously based on appearance, including the bottle and the label as well as the aesthetics of the wine itself. For this reason, many people prefer blind wine tasting, where tasters are deprived of many of these visual aspects to encourage a more honest interpretation of the results. Competitive wine tasters and sommeliers are more likely to use blind tasting techniques than those at more informal events.

Where the tasting is not blind, the first thing people usually notice is the colour of the wine, which can tell us a lot about how it is likely to taste before we even get it anywhere near our mouths. For example, a red wine that has depth of colour is probably going to have a richer and more intense flavour, whereas lighter hues are going to be fruitier and more acidic.

The aroma of a wine, which can also be referred to as the perfume or bouquet, is the next thing to be evaluated, in a technique called ‘nosing’. To properly nose the wine, it must first be swirled around in the glass to release the complexities of the scent. Different tasters have different techniques following this – some give a series of short, sharp sniffs, while others inhale deeply.

Speaking at the simplest level, if a wine smells good it will likely taste good. Clean and fresh fruit smells are what the taster is looking for initially. Earthy can be good, but hints of odours such as mould, vinegar or dirt are not.

Besides the freshness of the fruit, the bouquet of a wine can also provide hints about the taste to come, such as a whiff of vanilla, which can indicate a young, oaky wine.

The final stage of wine evaluation is all about the taste. To some extent, the results of a tasting come down to personal preference. The primary taste sensations of salt, sweet, sour, bitter and Umami are experienced through the taste buds on the top of the tongue. While there will be some wines that are more universally liked or disliked due to the quality, most preferences are simply about personal taste, so one person’s favourite may be another person’s least favourite.

Tasting the wine is about more than just the primary taste sensations, however. The texture of the wine is also important here. This can be improved and softened by decanting young wines and allowing them to breathe and develop a more complex perfume.

Thibaut de Roux was born in France and has a passion for French wines, especially those from the Burgundy region. Outside of his enthusiasm for wine, de Roux has enjoyed a successful career in the global capital markets, beginning as a trader and working his way up through a series of managerial roles. His most recent position was as Global Head of Markets at HSBC, where he worked internationally to develop and implement global strategy.


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