Wine Tasting How To!
Updated: Jun 23, 2020
Tasting wine may often seem like an intimidating endeavor – but once you get past the terminology, you’ll come to realize that it is a fun and straightforward process. Think of wine like music—there’s a multitude of notes for you to absorb and analyze, with everyone having a unique sense of taste. Whether you like hip-hop or jazz, a merlot or syrah, the concept of “good” or “bad” is completely subjective.
Tasting wine is just a matter of using a few basic senses – look, smell, and taste. Certain fruit flavors and aromatics are more common in certain varietals, so the more you practice, the more refined your taste buds become!
Observe the color and the clarity. The color of the wine is often reflective of the amount of time the juice spent in contact with the grape skins, aging, and grape varietal. Tilt the glass and look at everything from the rim edges to the middle of the glass. Besides “red” and “white”, what color do you see? Is it maroon, brick red, or brownish? Is it clear, straw-yellow, or golden in appearance? Next check the clarity of the wine. Is the wine translucent or opaque, vibrant or dull, cloudy or clear? Is there any sediment?
Before smelling the wine, you must first swirl it. The purpose of swirling is to increase the surface area of the wine, which will help vaporize some of the alcohol and release more of its true aromas. With the glass flat on a table, grab the bottom of the stem and swirl the wine generously—you want to aerate it, but only for about 10 seconds. Notice the streaks of wine – the “legs” – that run down the side of the glass once you’ve stopped swirling. This can tell you a lot about the wine’s viscosity. Wines with a higher sugar and/or alcohol content will have more pronounced “legs”. Stick your nose down into the glass and smell. Think about all the aromas you’re taking in. Is it fruity, oaky, floral, or tropical? Never feel intimidated by what other people detect – no two people smell an odor the same way. Same goes for taste.
Now for the best part - sip your glass of wine and let it roll across your palate. When it comes to tasting, there is more to the wine than just it’s flavors. What mouthfeel sensations do you detect? The acidity is what gives the wine its lift, without it a wine can taste flat or “flabby”. Tannin comes from the skins, seeds and stems, which creates a dryness on the finish (the lingering flavors). Too much can result in a bitter taste. When it comes to flavors, detected on the mid-palate, what do you taste? Berry, plum, pepper, or smokiness? Apple, citrus fruits, honey, or butter? Once you’ve swallowed the wine, pay attention to how long the flavor impression lasts. Was it light-bodied or heavy-bodied? Did the taste linger or was it short-lived?
Take the time to go through each step again. Your palate will adjust to the difference in pH balance and the second sip will often result in a completely different profile. Did you like the wine overall? Was it too sweet, too bitter, too acidic, or well-balanced? Remember, the wine will continue to evolve in the glass so savor each sip and enjoy!