Evaluating sparkling wines organoleptically requires different techniques to those for still wines.
Sparkling wines have special characteristics that must be factored in to come up with meaningful evaluations.
First, the wine must be evaluated visually, then aromatically, followed by flavor and overall.
The visual evaluation includes foam (mousse), bubbles (size, quantity and persistency), colour and clarity.
Ideally, the foam should cover 30 – 50 per cent of the surface of the “flute”.
Bulk processed wines (charmat and others). do not foam due to filtration and hydrogen bonding.
Bubbles, should last a long time, and must be small. The smaller the bubbles and the higher their number the better is the wine. The colour ranges from pale yellow (brut) to golden brownish. Rosé sparkling wines offer pink-salmon brownish colour.
Sulphur dioxide addition at varying stages of production changes colour intensity.
Organoleptic evaluation includes aromas and overall quality.
These, as well as the visual evaluation are important factors to consider overall. A quality sparkling wine should have an appealing and fruity smell. Some may offer toasty aromas due to barrel aging.
In the mouth, sugar/acid balance becomes important factors for critical assessment, as are body and texture.
Different palates look for different tastes. Some prefer freshness and balance along with fruity notes; there are others who adore toasty, biscuit aromas and flavours.
Champagne producers ship to different markets blends to please the palates of their consumers, except for vintage wines.
The wine should evolve in the mouth and offer complexity more than just flavour.
Above all, the mouth should confirm what the nose already established.
For most, a verbal meaningful description of the wine provides sufficient information.
There are connoisseurs who insist on numerical evaluation as well.
For those, the following criteria and their numerical values may be a good guide:
Quality of vinification 20
Overall appeal 20