The use of wine tasting descriptors allows the taster to qualitatively relate the aromas and flavors that the taster experiences and can be used in assessing the overall quality of wine. Wine writers, like Karen MacNeil author of The Wine Bible, differentiate wine tasters from casual enthusiasts; tasters attempt to give an objective description of the wine’s taste (often taking a systematic approach to tasting), casual enthusiasts appreciate wine but pause their examination sooner than tasters. The primary source of a person’s ability to taste wine is derived from his or her olfactory senses. A taster’s own personal experiences play a significant role in conceptualizing what he or she is tasting and attaching a description to that perception. The individual nature of tasting means that descriptors may be perceived differently among various tasters.
Some wine labels suggest opening the bottle and letting the wine “breathe” for a couple of hours before serving, while others recommend drinking it immediately. Decanting (the act of pouring a wine into a special container just for breathing) is a controversial subject among wine enthusiasts. In addition to aeration, decanting with a filter allows the removal of bitter sediments that may have formed in the wine. Sediment is more common in older bottles, but aeration may benefit younger wines. During aeration, a younger wine’s exposure to air often “relaxes” the drink, making it smoother and better integrated in aroma, texture, and flavor. Older wines generally “fade” (lose their character and flavor intensity) with extended aeration. Despite these general rules, breathing does not necessarily benefit all wines. Wine may be tasted as soon as the bottle is opened to determine how long it should be aerated, if at all.