This comprehensive wine tasting guide will teach you, step by step, how to taste wine.
Whether you are planning a wine tasting trip or a wine tasting party , or you simply want to become more informed, we hope the wine tasting education you’ll receive on this page is exactly what you’ve been looking for.
As you read through this wine tasting guide, keep in mind that everyone’s olfactory senses and taste buds perceive wine in a slightly different way.
Wine is an acquired taste, and your appreciation of wine will increase the more you taste and understand its subtle complexities.
Order of Wine Tasting
Whether you are holding or attending a wine tasting, you will want to taste the lighter, sweeter wines first and the heavier, dryer wines last. This way, the heavier wines don’t overwhelm your senses and distort the tastes of the lighter wines.
An appropriate wine tasting order is: sparkling wine – light, younger whites – heavier, older whites – rose – light, younger reds – heavier, older reds – dessert wines.
Stages of Wine Tasting
There are four stages to tasting wine. Even though this process is called wine “tasting”, it’s really more of a complete evaluation using all your senses.
The first stage is evaluating your wine’s appearance for color (both hue and depth), and clarity. Move the wine around in your glass by tilting it from side to side. Hold it up to the light or in front of a white background.
In your red wines notice the variety and intensity of colors presented. Your red wines should not be at all brown or flat looking.
In your white wines notice the shades of gold and yellow presented. You may even see a hint of green.
White wines begin pale and tend to darken with age. Red wines begin a deep, bright shade of red or purple and brown as they age.
When judging the appearance of your wine you may notice its “legs”, the oily streams of liquid that run down the inside of your glass. Legs are not an indication of wine quality, simply note the presence of higher alcohol content.
The second stage is evaluating your wine’s nose, aroma, and bouquet. Swirl the wine gently in your glass to open it up to more surface air. This will release more of its aromas. Take a few moments to let it breathe .
The way in which your olfactory senses perceive the wine will greatly influence how your taste buds will perceive it. Dip your nose into the glass and inhale deeply.
Some aromas you may detect are fruit, flower, spice, earth, or wood; but don’t limit yourself. There are dozens of adjectives you can use to describe an aroma. Allow yourself to be creative and make a note of your initial impressions. Remember, no observation is incorrect.
The third stage is evaluating your wine’s taste or palate . Sip a small amount of your wine, but do not swallow it yet. Let it roll around inside your mouth for a few moments so you can detect its flavors.
Experienced wine tasters will introduce air into their mouths to bring out still more aromas and flavors. You can do this by tipping your head slightly forward and down, pursing your lips as if to whistle, then breathing in through your mouth while breathing out through your nose.
When tasting your wine you are looking for a balance between acid, alcohol and tannin. You want these elements to be in harmony, without one taste overpowering another.
You may perceive sweetness which is, by definition, a wine’s level of residual sugar. However, the sweetness of a wine is actually controlled by the amounts of acid, alcohol and tannins present.
In general, the higher the alcohol content, the sweeter the wine will taste.
Ocassionally, a wine tasting guide will confuse sweet with fruit. Sweet wines can taste fruity or not. Dry wines with low levels of residual sugar and no noticeable sweetness can still taste fruity.
Too much acid will make your wine taste sharp or tart. Too little acid will make it taste flat and not refreshing.
Too much alcohol will make it taste overly sweet and hot and biting as it’s swallowed.
Too many tannins will make your wine astringent and will make your mouth pucker. Tannins give wine its body and will soften as a wine ages and is exposed to more air.
Lastly, you’ll want to note the body of your wine, or how it feels in your mouth. Wines will be light-bodied, medium-bodied, or full-bodied.
The final stage in the wine tasting guide is evaluating your wine’s finish , the sensation left in your mouth after swallowing. The longer the flavors linger on your palate, the longer the finish.
We hope this wine tasting guide has given you the information you were looking for, and that it will help you to become an informed wine taster.
Remember that it may take months or years of proper wine tasting to fully understand and be
able to detect the subtle variation in all types of wine.
However, in no time at all, you’ll discover what you like and what you don’t like. And in the short term, for the average wine drinker, this is all that matters.
Don’t forget to bookmark our wine tasting guide for future reference.