Chapter 7 of 11 from James Suckling

Appreciation on Location, Part 2: Barrel Tasting


Tasting from a barrel can be dramatically different than from a bottle. Learn what to look for in the barrel, and how to determine a wine’s potential direction.

Topics include: Cellar Storage

Tasting from a barrel can be dramatically different than from a bottle. Learn what to look for in the barrel, and how to determine a wine’s potential direction.

Topics include: Cellar Storage

James Suckling

James Suckling Teaches Wine Appreciation

Flavor, aroma, and structure—Learn from wine master James Suckling as he teaches you to appreciate the stories in every bottle.

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Discover the story in every bottle

Called one of the “world’s most powerful wine critics,” James Suckling has tasted more than 200,000 wines over the past 40 years. In his MasterClass, James tours legendary Tuscan vineyards and teaches you to explore the stories, history, and people behind every bottle. Deepen your knowledge of the properties in each sip, cultivate your passion, and choose, order, and pair wines with confidence.

Immerse yourself in the vineyards of Tuscany with renowned wine critic James Suckling and deepen your appreciation for the wines of the world.

A downloadable wine guide accompanies the class with lesson recaps, supplemental materials, and a printable worksheet to help you conduct your own tastings.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. James will also respond to select student questions.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

This class was a lot of fun. I would love to see more classes like this in the future, about wine, and about the more in-depth elements. Especially loved the visit to Marchesi Antinori!

Thanks to James, I have an idea on how to approach wine appreciation with structure and confidence. The journey has begun and this is a great introduction to the world of wine!

I enjoyed this MasterClass and found it very entertaining, but did not actually learn much more about wine than I already knew. I wish it was a bit longer and went deeper into different varietals, tasting methodologies, etc but still am glad I watched it.

Exposed me to approachable ways to taste and appreciate wines. There was lots of great vocabulary, which I find helps one to articulate ideas when learning in a new area. I also found James voice have good "ear-feel," not sure if that's a term but it's the hearing analogy to "mouth-feel." Thanks for the great content.


David H.

Honestly, a wine like the Solaia, for around €250+ better be good. I am zero impressed or surprised by this. Even the Tignanello with €90 per bottle is ridiculous expensive.

Barbara H.

These classes have been interesting and informative thus far. I would hope to be able to visit a quality vineyard in Tuscany someday. In the interim, I was hoping to gain some knowledge about how to purchase a quality wine in my local wine shop. Maybe that will come in future lessons. There is such a huge variety available and some are of such poor quality, it is hard to make wise choices. Anyone have any helpful suggestions?


We tasted from bottle a small range of different vintages of the Antinoris' famous red Tignanello. But let's take it all a step further and taste some wines from barrel. Most premium wines are aged in French oak barrels to soften tannins in red wines and give richness to white wines. There are other barrels, such as American oak or even Hungarian oak, as well as chestnut. Most oak barrels are 225 liters in size, but there are larger barrels, such as puncheons of 500 liters, or casks, ranging from a few hectoliters to much, much larger. We're now in the barrel-aging room of Tenuta Tignanello, but we're tasting Solaia, the newest vintage, 2017. When you're tasting from barrel, you look for some basic components, the ballads of the fruit and alcohol, the tannins, the length. Length is when you taste the wine and get rid of it, how long does it last-- the flavor, the texture? Top-class wines have all of this in balance. Less good wines may have too much acid or too much alcohol, or they may be over-influenced by the wood, giving them a vanilla or woody flavor. Mm. Good tannins, nice chewiness. It's a little bit raw now, but it's a baby. It has to spend another seven or eight months in barrel. And those tannins, that chewiness, is going to soften, and come along nicely. And then it'll be put in bottle. - Yeah, and 2017 was a very warm vintage. So I think the wine is very-- we're very excited about the wine, because warm vintage sometimes give big fatty wines. This is nice, because it's got that elegance, that typicity of that piece of land. This is Cabernet, mostly, and a bit of Sangiovese, the opposite of Tignanello. But you still recognize the origin, no? - Yes. - How do you figure out how long to age it in wood? Is it all just about tasting? - Basically, yes. It's-- - Three months, every three months we taste the wine, and we feel the evolution, we feel the evolution of the tannins, and also a part of the wood that we choose vintage by vintage, depending on the style, the season, and the climate of the season. - When people talk about wine, sometimes they think it's just science, but actually it's artistry. You're figuring out just by tasting. It's not just going to the lab and analyzing it. - The analyses are important, for sure, because the wine needs to be correct in its parameters. But in the end, the tasting and the evolution of the wine is what allows you then to take the decision of a rack, or the moment of moving on the wine from the wood. And so this is a really human evolution of the wine, made by human work and human tastings. - You may have heard of en primeur, or buying wines as futures. And what happens is, you're buying the wine still in barrel. It'll be delivered in two, three years, and you're trusting my notes, other people's notes, and also your wine merchants to give you great information so you can make that purchase. It's really special to be down in this ancient cellar with all thes...