How To Taste Wine – Look, Swirl, Smell, Taste!

In learning how to taste wine and judge its quality there is more to consider that just the “taste”. Wine, especially premium wine, deserves more than just a quick swallow. In fact, tasting the wine is the final step in appreciating it.

However, many people dismiss those who have enough wine knowledge to swirl and sniff their wine as pretentious wine snobs. This is not the case; they have simply appreciating what’s in their glass.

Follow these simple steps to learn how to taste wine.

  1. Look. Pour the wine into a clear glass and hold it in front of a white background (a sheet of paper will do). Note the color. From purple and ruby red through to brown for red wines and from pale straw through to brown for white wines.
  2. Swirl.* Hold the glass by the stem and swirl the wine around your glass. This action mixes the wine with the air, releasing the wine’s fragrance. Visually, it allows you to observe the body of the wine. Does it have legs?—the viscous droplets that form and ease down the sides of the glass when the wine is swirled. Good legs may indicate a denser body and higher alcohol content.
  3. Smell. Most of what we taste is actually our sense of smell doing double-duty. After swirling the wine, sniff deeply in the bowl of the glass and enjoy the aromas. Don’t try to taste the wine, yet. Just concentrate on what you can smell. Some common aromas are fruit, flowers, earth, wood, herbs, spices.
  4. Taste. Take a little of the wine into your mouth and slosh it around. Concentrate on the flavors; see if you can associate the taste with familiar flavors such as berries, butter, vanilla, oak, tobacco or chocolate. Pay attention to your taste buds. Draw a little air into your mouth (don’t worry if you look silly). Examine the body and texture. You’ll note many flavors that you wouldn’t normally associate with wine. After you swallow, note the aftertaste. How long does the taste last?

* Some experts suggest that after pouring the wine into the glass and, before swirling, you take a sniff and see what is there … then swirl and take another sniff after releasing the volatiles. This will give some idea of the complexity that has been built into the wine. A simple rule of thumb is:

  • If there is no change after swirling then it is a simple uncomplicated wine.
  • If there are new aromas and characters after swirling, then it is a more complex wine and probably a more expensive wine.

After tasting the wine, take a few moments to evaluate its overall flavor and balance but, most importantly, enjoy the wine drinking experience now that you’ve learnt how to taste wine.

Click here to find out how to cellar wine.

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