WSET Diploma Tasting, Part 2

USING THE SCALE… When looking/nosing/tasting a wine on any scale consider how that wine would fit into a 3 point scale. For example, if you were grading the level of acidity, is the wine low, medium or high. If you feel the wine fits the medium category, graduate further within the medium band: is the wine at the lower end of the scale (M-) or the upper end at (M+)? The tendency of students doing the examination is to have + or -. I suggest you go for the 3 points and be opinionated. The choice for + or – is really a reconciliation. Some wines may fit right in the middle, although there should be fewer in this category on a 5 point scale. Do not be afraid to use Low or High (or its equivalent in other scales); the wine does not have to be the lowest you’ve ever tasted or the highest, although the graduations within either of these categories at the extremes is less marked than in the medium categories.
In general the main reason to look at the appearance of a wine is to see any signs of faultiness. Clues for faultiness would be turbidity (suspended matter, lack of clarity) or dullness at the surface, or a color that is deeper or browner than you would expect of a wine of that age and type.

It is important that the same amount of wine is in the glass; samples should be poured to 3cm(an inch) in depth. It is equally important that as little time as possible is spent on color. Hopefully the tips below for this part of the wines analysis will help to move this along and prevent you spending too much time on an area of assessment that has a maximum of 3 marks.


Clarity = there are particles suspended in the wine that scatter light. A wine may appear opaque, but at the rim light can penetrate enough for you to see whether it is clear. The opposite of clear is turbid.

Brightness = how reflective or ‘glossy’ the surface is. The opposite of bright is dull.

Clarity is not judging how see-through the wine is; the main purpose is looking for evidence of faultiness. As the wines you will be presented in class and the exam will be free from fault, they will be clear and bright.

A couple of tips for red wines: assess intensity by looking through the top of the wine. If the wine is about 3cm deep, then for most wines you can see a small circle where the stem of the glass meets the bowl of the glass; these wines are medium intensity. If you can’t, the wine is deep in color. And if you can read print of the size of that printed on the SAT through the wine, then it is pale. Alternatively, look at how far the color extends to the rim: the more saturated the wine is, the closer to the rim the color will extend; the narrower the rim, the deeper the color.

Intensity of color for white wines can also be assessed by seeing how deep the wine needs to be before a distinct tint appears, the narrower the rim, the deeper the color. The amount of tannins is one of the explanation for this.


The scale extends to 6 points at Diploma. However, this expansion does not necessarily mean a greater degree of accuracy is achieved: it is easy to ‘sit on the fence’ and use just M- or M+. Please use these mainly to further graduate wines in the medium part of scale if necessary.

6 point scale
3 point scale
Water-white (use for rim only, which is true of the majority of whites wines & white spirits)
Medium (-)
Medium (+)

The words used are common to the world of wine and can be used consistently. Don’t use ‘straw’ or ‘brick’ because we found no consistency as to its meaning.

Important point: there is NO difference in hue between the core and the rim. Wine is a homogenous liquid, and any apparent differences are just due to there being less wine, and it therefore appearing paler. (This is why it is important that you have the same amount of wine in each glass.) A wine will not change from a ruby core to a garnet rim. If a wine is garnet at the rim, it is a deeper intensity of garnet at the core.

White wine colors represent a scale from greenish-yellow to brownish yellow. The color of white wines is most easily assessed at the core (where the wine is deepest). Nearly all white wines fade to a water-white rim, where the color is imperceptible.

Red wine colors represent a scale from bluish-red to brownish-red. For red wines, look at the rim to see if it is still basically pink-red (i.e. ruby) or is showing some orange/brown (i.e. garnet). Almost all wines are one of these two. Save ‘purple’ for wines that still display a distinct youthful blue color at the rim, and save ‘tawny’ for wines that are distinctly brown in color.

For both red and white wines, avoid the temptation to think that tiny variations in hue or intensity mean the wines need to be described differently.

For rosé wines the colors range from Pink (bluish pink)- Salmon (pinkish orange) – Orange (brownish pink) – Onion Skin (brownish-orange)

The color of the rim will be the same as the color of the core (except paler, and may be so pale that there is no discernible hue). As a general rule for red wine, you could describe the rim as one step paler than the core, a medium garnet wine will have a pale garnet rim. For white, there are very few exceptions where the rim is not water-white.

All wine shows tears, in a suitable glass. We suggest you