Though much of the emphasis of wine tasting is placed on scent and taste, appearance has an important part to play, too. Like being able to tell the age of a horse by studying the appearance of its teeth (their shape, number of permanent teeth, angles of incidence, and disappearance of cups), visually evaluating a wine is equally informative. A wine’s appearance allows one to estimate its actual age, quality, and purity. Similar the four ways used to examine a horse’s teeth, there are things to look for when examining wine.
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Among them are color, clarity, brightness. A wine’s color changes as the wine ages. Older reds appear somewhat tawny, while younger reds are more robust, sometimes with a subtle hint of blue. Sweet white wines initially look crisply golden, but take on more brown over time. Dry whites appear very clear at birth, but don a darker, amber shade with age. As a given, the clearer a wine appears the fewer deposits or particles it has. (Clear wines are ideal, and decanting is not as necessary--though often recommended, depending on the circumstances.) Lastly, the brightness of a wine denotes its energy and acidity. A shockingly bright wine is a young wine, a somewhat-bright wine has reached a nice maturity, and a lackluster wine has passed its prime. While you shouldn’t “look a gift horse in the mouth,” examining your wine for visual clues about its age and personality is not a bad idea.