The Art of Tasting

The Art of Tasting

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The Art of Tasting

For inexperienced people the work of a taster seems to be enjoyable, simple, but at the same time dangerous to health. We asked a professional taster, the head sensor laboratory of the Moscow factory KiN Helen Nagiyeva to see if this image is true.

Helen, could you tell us, please, how tasters are able to comply with proportion?

— To fully evaluate a product, including an alcoholic drink, there is no need to use it in large quantities — enough to «listen to» its bouquet and only a small sip is needed to evaluate its taste. It would be naive to believe that consumption of even small doses of alcohol will not intoxicate your organism during a long and extensive tasting. And this, of course, affects the perception of the product. Many professional tasters spit rather than swallow the drink — in this case the amount of alcohol entering the organism is reduced by tens of times, and completeness of the evaluation of taste and aftertaste do not suffer.

Does the degree of intoxication influence the receptors?

— So-called sensory fatigue can take place when tasting not only alcohol but also any other products. Receptors do not so clearly perceive the nuances of flavor or taste of a drink, objectivity of tasting evaluation reduces. That's why a number of samples is always limited at professional tastings. When tasting alcoholic beverages it is particularly relevant — as alcohol contained increases fatigue of the sensory receptors, distorts the perception of the drink. According to the results of our researches, objective evaluation of a taster is significantly reduced after the fourteenth specimen.

And what is necessary to do in order to give receptors a rest?

— There are several ways. For example, the aroma of coffee beans quickly restores the sensitivity of smell, not accidentally, on shelves of many perfume shops, along with bottles of perfumes; you can find small jars of coffee grains. Breathing its fragrance, a buyer recovers its sense of smell, and continues to choose perfume...

Properly selected food (or just a snack), accompanying a professional tasting, will help reduce the influence of alcohol on the organism, as well as remove aftertaste and renew receptors. Typically, this is fresh biscuits, neutral cheese, apples and similar products that do not have a bright aroma and flavor.

Tell us more about the process of tasting.

— There is generally accepted that technology of tasting alcoholic beverages was worked out by experience of many generations of winemakers, professional tasters, sommeliers. First of all - tasting conditions. A taster needs to prepare for work; he should not participate in the tasting with a feeling of satiety or hunger, if he is sick or just has a bad mood. All these factors can severely distort the perception and, consequently, the objectivity of the evaluation. Workplace should be comfortable, tasters should not communicate with each other during the work - this will allow to avoid the influence of other people's views and enhance the objectivity of evaluations. Special glasses are used for tasting evaluation of different types of alcoholic beverages. Thus, for the evaluation of brandy, there are two types of glasses — and a tulip glass and a snifter. Special form of sniffers allows you to alleviate some expressiveness of young brandies, and tulip shape underlines the complex, round bouquet of aged brandies. During the tasting appearance, bouquet, taste of a drink, its aftertaste is evaluated. At that quality of a drink, and its peculiar characteristics, nuances of flavor, taste, distinguishing it from the rest is evaluated.

Does a tasting process depend on what drink is being tasted?

— Of course! For example, brandy, in my opinion — one of the most complex and rich alcohol beverages. And at every stage of the evaluation of its qualities there are some peculiarities. In evaluating the appearance transparency of a drink, game colors and the so-called «crown» are important. According to it the quality of brandy can be judged. Pour some brandy into a glass; let it run over glass walls. If a beautiful, smooth «crown» of slowly flowing «tears» is formed on the walls, it says about aged, thick, oily brandy.

In the bouquet of brandy three waves are evaluated. The first wave is captured at a distance of about 5 cm from the edge of the glass — as a rule; they are light floral, vanilla tones. The second wave is estimated at slightly closer distance to the edge of the glass and is characterized by rich colors of flowers, dried fruits, sometimes — nut note. The third wave is developed with ageing of brandy in barrels – it is wood shades, tones skin, plum, resinous, spicy shades. It should be understood that such a division is nominal. Opening of a brandy bouquet strongly depends on the quality and ageing. A brandy bouquet should be rounded, harmonious; the individual notes should not unduly dominate.

Then you can proceed to the evaluation of taste and aftertaste of brandy — a sip of the drink roll in the mouth, feel full, soft flavor. Finally, the evaluation of aftertaste. The longer it is, the better brandy is considered to be. But, of course, the most important — aftertaste should be pleasant! 

Yes, it is not so simple as it seems to be at first glance...

— I describe the technique of professional tasting, and a normal consumer does not necessarily each time repeat all these steps. It is just necessary to look at brandy slightly different, «listen» to it, to stay with it for some time in a special, comfortable atmosphere, I would say — to talk with it. And then, undoubtedly, everyone can hear the nuances of brandy bouquet, to evaluate the diversity of its taste.

What is your relationship with alcohol outside of work?

— I am sure that if something is insistently forbidden, then you want it even stronger. Therefore, I do not set any taboos for myself as regards alcohol. If you consume alcohol properly, in a suitable environment, and the most important — moderately, you will only benefit. Alcohol should give pleasure, emotional and aesthetic pleasure, and this is quite a bit.

Do your friends ask you for advice in their choice of alcoholic beverages?

— Of course, knowing who I am, friends and acquaintances are interested in what is better to choose from alcohol diversity. I explained a lot of times the features of the production of different drinks, told about the differences in raw materials. Unfortunately, few people know the difference between cognac and vodka. And very few know how to consume them properly.  Not one I prevented attempts to chill brandy which I brought as a gift before serving at the table, explained what age specified on its label means, showed how it is better to taste brandy to fully evaluate it. Such information is always interesting to people, because it is difficult for a consumer today to navigate in a huge assortment.

Share your professional secrets, how is it possible not to get drunk during the holidays?

— Again, the advice can be only one — remember about your limits. Do not set a goal — to get drunk and consume a drink for pleasure. Competent combination of moderate quantities of alcoholic beverages with meals, especially with rich and fatty foods will reduce the degree of intoxication. Also, it is important not to drink beverages, different in origin and in proof. If today you decide to accompany a festive meal with vodka, you should not change it to wine in the middle of the holiday. You will definitely feel unwell the next morning.

Video lessons about the rules of tasting of brandy you can see at School of Brandy .

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