How to Taste Wine


Easy tips on how to taste wine in a tasting room, wine store, at home or at a party

Are you interested in learning how to taste wine? Not sure about proper wine tasting etiquette? Wine tasting is an enjoyable and fun experience once you know a few easy tips on how to taste wine.

The primary sensory triggers in tasting wine are sight, smell and taste. You look at a wine poured in the glass for color and clarity. You smell the wine (breathing only through the nose) to identify the specific aromas. You taste the wine to determine the character and structure of the wine such as sweet or bitter, earthy or spicy.

Ideal Wine Tasting Surrounding

For an ideal wine tasting experience, you should be in a room with natural or incandescent lighting so that you can see the true color of the wine. The room should be as free as possible from odors such as perfume, after shave, cooking smells, pet odors and smoke. These detract from the sensory triggers and can alter the smell and taste of the wine. Also avoid chewing gum, eating garlicky foods, or using mouthwash or breath mints before tasting wine. These too can alter the smell and taste of the wine.


Tip # 1 – Look at the wine.

When the wine is poured, look straight down into the glass. Holding the glass by the stem (or in the case of a stemless wine glass, the bottom portion of the glass), tilt the glass and observe the wine, especially around the edges to see how the color changes from the center to the edges. Then hold the glass to the light and view the wine through the side of the glass to see the translucence of the color.

Tip # 2 – Smell the wine.

Hover your nose over the top of the wine glass and smell the wine, using short sniffs so that you can compare the fragrance after swirling it.

Tip # 3 – Swirl the wine.

Gently swirl the wine in the glass. This increases the surface area of the wine allowing it to reach your nose. It also allows for oxygen into the wine, helping to open the aroma. While swirling the wine, note how slowly it runs back down the side of the glass. This is how you note the wine’s viscosity. More viscous wines are known to have “legs” that run down the sides of the wine glass are most likely to have higher alcohol content with ripe and full-bodied characteristics.

Tip # 4 – Swirl the wine again.

Hold the glass a few inches from your nose and then let your nose go into the wine glass. Note any aromas you may smell.

Tip # 5 – Take the first sip.

Take a sip of the wine and roll it in your mouth before swallowing to make sure that it is exposed to all the mouth’s taste buds. You may detect sweet, sour, savory, bitter or salty. This is also where you’ll detect texture.

While tasting the wine, purse your lips and draw some air into your mouth, then exhale through the nose. This process opens the aromas of the wine allowing them to reach your nose.


Tip # 6 – Take the second sip.

This time bring in some air as you sip. You’ll most likely notice additional differences in flavor or texture. After swallowing the wine, note the aftertaste and how long the finish lasts.

Tip # 7 – Take notes.

Write down your impressions of each wine. Note the four basic wine characteristics: taste, tannins, alcohol and acidity. Aging the wine softens tannins. Acidity will soften during the lifetime of the wine. Alcohol stays the same no matter how old the wine gets.

Final Thoughts

Always drink water to cleanse the palate or to rinse the wine glass between tastings, especially when switching from white wines to red wines.

If you’re tasting several different wines, it is customary to spit residual wine into wine spittoons between tastings to avoid overindulgence and deadening the palate.

Need information on wine tasting etiquette? Read this post.

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