This page is the Complete Wine Tasting Guide to Everything you Need to Know about Tasting Wine as good as any professional, or better! By reading all our tips on wine tasting on this page, you are guaranteed to become a much better wine taster!
Think about it. People have been tasting wine for thousands of years. And yes, some tasters are better than others. Is there something they know you don’t? I can tell you that they will not know much more than you will, that is after you’ve finished reading this page!
The first thing you need to understand is that while wine tasting, wine drinking, or evaluating wine are related, they offer different experiences and require different skill sets.
For example, most of the time if you’re tasting wine, instead of simply drinking it with dinner, the purpose is usually to help you evaluate or better understand the wine in your glass. This is what takes place most of the time at professional tastings, as well as those hosted at various wine merchants.
Wine tasting will help you discover what wines you really like, or not. It’s as simple as it sounds. The more wines you taste will help you become a better, more informed wine taster. The simple act of tasting wine and reading this page will definitely Help you Taste Wine like a Professional Wine Taster”
It’s important to keep in mind that when you are evaluating a wine, it is too allow you to gain a deeper, more critical look at the wine, or wines in question. Evaluating wine is often done in peer groups letting you know how a wine, or group of wine compares to other wines in the same peer group.
On the other hand, drinking wine, and pairing wine with food is done for pleasure. Personally, while I taste a lot of wine, I can assure you I spend a lot more time enjoying drinking wine with friends and family at dinner than I do evaluating or tasting wine.
Never forget that the best wines in the world are meant to be enjoyed, that is their sole reason for existing.
Describing what you’re tasting is imperative. To make it easy for you to share and communicate with others about the wine that you’re tasting, there are several key words for wine speak that you need to learn to help you get your point across.
Adding a few of the wine words that are comfortable for you to use to your wine vocabulary is going to really help you with wine tasting. variety of factors starting with unfamiliarity with wine and how to talk about wine and explain what you’re tasting. This dictionary of wine terms will help you with that: Glossary of the Most Important Wine Terms and Phrases Knowning a few phrases and words is only part of the skill set.
There is only one way to become a better taster and that is to taste wine. Remember, with wine tasting, it’s all about your personal taste. There is no right or wrong in your taste.
You like the wine or not. Pay no attention to the geeks at the wine store with their fancy vocabulary. Unless they know you and understand the wines you like or not, they have no idea on the best wine for your palate. Only you know that. The same goes for wine critics.
Wine critics get the chance to taste more wine than you ever will, but unless you are quite familiar with the types of wines and styles of wines they favor nor not, it does you no good. Trust me on this, there are wine critics with much better palates than others.
There are going to be wine critics that you agree with more often than not and you will find their ratings more to your liking. For a look at how wines are rated and scored when compared to other wines in the same peer group: How and why wines are rated and scored
The truth many professionals don’t want you to know is that’s it’s quite easy to be a good wine taster! To be a good wine tasters, all you need are your normal senses, sight, smell, taste and touch. With a little practice, you’ll see how easy it is to be a good wine taster. When tasting a wine, the first thing you do is look at the wine in your glass.
As you might know, we all taste with our eyes. You can tell a lot about a wine from a glance. All you need to do is hold out the glass and tilt it a bit.
Try looking at the wine over a clean, white surface so that wines color is clear and not altered. You’re looking at the color to get an idea on the health of the wine and for clues as to its level of concentration. It helps for you to have a minor understanding of how a wine should look that is correct for its grape varietal, age and growing season. Let’s focus on Bordeaux wine for now, which is most often a blend dominated by either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
Young Bordeaux wine should be dark, displaying a depth of color from the rim to the center of the glass. The color can feature purple or dark blue, often shiny accents. Deeper and richer colors let the taster know this is a concentrated wine. For my palate, concentration and depth of flavor is a good thing. Young wines that lack good color are going to be lighter less ripe and more acidic in style.
That is natural for wines made from Pinot Noir. But for young wines produced using Bordeaux varieties, you want to see a good, rich, deep color. The depth of color is also a good, beginning indicator of a wines style. An inky, dark hued Bordeaux is probably going to be intense, mouth filling lower in acid and long.
Young Bordeaux or young Bordeaux styled wines with light colors are going to be lighter in flavor, with more red fruits than black and brighter in acidity.
Next in your visual evaluation of the wine is the legs or tears on the side of the glass. This is not all that important. You can skip ahead to the next paragraph if you like. But as you have probably heard many people remark on the tears or legs in a wine, if you did not skip ahead, let’s cover it now.
The size of the tears or legs and the length of time they remain in the glass give a glimpse into the wines potential alcohol level and sweetness, as well as the viscosity of the wine. Thin legs that dissipate quickly are usually found in lighter, less concentrated wines.
While fatter, or should I say more athletic legs that remain on the glass foretell of a rich, concentrated wine with lots of fruit, sweetness and length. Again, it’s important to note, the legs and tears of wine are related to the grape variety and the country the wine was made in.
For Bordeaux styled wines, we want large tears that stay in the glass. Legs and tears will let you know a little about the alcoholic content and level of sweetness in the wine, they are not an indicator that you will like the wine, or not.
How to understand the smells, bouquet, aromas or perfume of a wine.
You’ve looked at the wine already, what’s next? That’s easy. Now all you need to do is taste the wine! Remember when we first looked at a wine evaluate it? Now, we are going to swirl, smell and sniff the wine. Your sense of smell is much stronger than you realize. It’s a key component to understanding how to taste wine like a professional.
It’s said that as much as 85% of taste is derived from your sense of smell. But you cannot smell the wine without first swirling your glass gently. If you’re a beginner, to avoid smelling the wine once its drenched your clothes, swirl the glass, but keep the stem of the glass firmly planted on the table. Gently grab the stem of the glass with your forefinger and thumb and simply make small circles on the table with your glass.
You will never spill your wine if you keep the glass anchored to the table. The action of swirling your glass allows oxygen to enter into the wine, which in turn lets the wine to release its scents into the air while coating the glass at the same time.
The molecules that create the aromatics in the wines perfume are released into the air and your nose because they are light enough to float from the glass on top of the alcohol which is now slightly evaporating into the air, due to your swirling.
After swirling your wine, you can use whatever technique that works best for you, when nosing the wines aromatics. However, one little trick that could help is, keep your mouth slightly open when inhaling and exhaling the scents from the wine.
That little secret will allow you to discern more aromatic complexities in your wine. Next, do not simply inhale the aromas. Sniff them, more than once. You will inhale more of the wines aromatics using that technique. But at the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way to nose a wine.
Use what works for you. Some tasters inhale deeply, others take small, short sniffs, while others practice a combination of both techniques. Find the technique that works best for you. To help understand the aromas that are correct for the grape varietal characteristics of the wine, please see our page on the Davis Wine Aroma Wheel
Generally speaking, if a wine smells good, meaning there are no off odors such as scents of wet dogs, old news papers, mold, vinegar or generally unclean scents, the wine is sound. The next step is to note how complex the wine smells and what scents make up its complex, aromatic profile.
The key to being a good wine taster is understanding that we all have different levels of olfactory capabilities. Some people are going to be more sensitive overall than others.
Select tasters will also sense some, specific fragrances better than others. Sense memory, or perhaps it should be scents memory” is the key here. Most of the scents found in wine are common to us. The lack of fear in trying to recall, recognize and communicate our sensations is all that is required here.
It’s important to note that wines and the grapes they are made from are quite complex and that once your fear of sharing what you smell and taste subsides, wine will no longer simply smell like red wine or white wine.
You’ll find a vast array of scents and flavors are present in your wine. Again, please refer to the Davis Aroma Wheel to get you started. It’s a great tool that will help you be a better wine taster.
Nosing what you smell in a wine can tell you a lot about the wine and its potential character. For example, when examining wines from Bordeaux varietals, as well as some Rhone wines, the scents of dark fruit like blackberries and plum tell the taster the wine is made from ripe berries.
The darker the fruits, the riper the wine and the higher level of sugar and alcohol. The scents of blueberries are the sign of an even riper wine.
Jam flavors or scents in a wine can be a sought after complexity in the right amount. Too much jammyness and the wine could be over ripe and too high in alcohol. Prune and raisin scents are more often caused by over ripe fruit, which is usually lacking in freshness.
When looking at a wine, when you encounter cherries, raspberries or other red berries, that is often the sign of fruit that did not achieve full, phenolic ripeness. Those wines will be brighter in their palate profile and higher in acid as well.
A light, balanced sense of oak is to be expected in young wines. This is reflected by odors of vanilla, coffee or toast aromas. But when those smells become the dominant characteristic in a wine, it is a potential sign that the wine will be oaky later in life as well.
Regardless of the wine being white or red, remember, the fruit needs to smell clean and fresh. While earth and other mineral odors or sensations are a sought after complexity in wine, dirt in the fruit is not.
Part of being a good wine taster is also being able to recognize flaws in wine, especially corked wines. The biggest fault in a wine that a wine taster needs to be able to identify takes place due to TCA, which causes a wine to smell like a wet dog, or old, wet newspapers. For Help with How to Recognize a Corked Wine and its Causes
So far, we have dealt with primary scents in young wine as well as faults in wine, which can be found in young or old wine. Faults in a wine can ruin the experience. One of the most common faults in wine comes from being corked. How to Recognize a Corked Wine This happens far too often as between 3% to 10% of all wines are corked.
It’s also important to understand what to expect in older, mature wines with bottle age. Older, mature wines also need to retain a freshness to their aromatic profile. But when wines age and mature, they exchange their primary fruit aroma for more complex, secondary scents.
In red wine, smells of earth, truffle, tobacco, spice, cigar box and forest floor and common aromas. White wines develop more notes of honey, flowers, spice, butter, popcorn, caramel and minerals with time.
Tips on how to taste wine
Now that you have a good understanding of how to look at a wine, and smell a wine, all that’s left is to taste a wine. Right? Basically, yes.
Note I said basically, because while your personal like or dislike of the wine is all that counts, understanding how to look for a few quality indicators will help you with being a better wine taster.
More important than quality indicators is understanding why you like a certain wine, or not. Remember, there is no right or wrong when it comes to personal taste. The Davis Aroma Wine Wheel is going to help you find the aromas and scents you were thinking of, but could not find the words for.
Our wine glossary gives you the language you might be seeking to help express what you are tasting and feeling in the wine on your palate. ABC of Wine Terms and Wine Language
Finally, we are at the good part in learning how to taste wine. We are actually tasting the wine! There are three, easy, secret tips on learning how to taste wine. Tasting a wine involves more than just your sense of taste, which focuses on the primary sensations of sweet, salt, bitter, sour and Umami, which are experienced on the top of your tongue through your taste-buds.
There is also the texture of the wine and the length of the experience that you need to pay attention to. Remember, you are going to become a better wine taster the more you taste.
You would not be reading this page, at least not this far into the page if you were not interested in learning how to taste wine. So go ahead, pour a glass of wine and let’s move to final and most fun part of this article.
Like I mentioned earlier, wine is for drinking, right? Wine tasting tip number 1, Decanting Wine Explained Young wines, (Well made, age worthy young wines) almost always need decanting. Allowing wine to breathe, which means the wine is going to soften in texture and develop more complex aromas in the glass.
Decanting coupled with correct temperatures will improve your tasting experience with young wines. Your wine tasting tip #2 is, taste wines at the right temperature and try to always taste wine with a decent wine glass. For temperatures, red wine likes to be served at cooler temperatures.
60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit is about right. When red wines become too warm, the become flabby, lacking freshness and a lively, refreshing quality. White wines should be served 55 to 60 degrees. White wines become much less interesting as they warm in the glass.
Wine tasting tip #3, tasting wine is quite simple. Take a reasonable sip of wine into your mouth. It’s important that you place enough wine in your mouth the obtain the full flavor profile and textural sensations. If you take too small of a sip, you’ll miss some of much of the impact the wine has to offer.
Next, slightly open your lips and inhale some air. At that point, gently chew on the wine for a bit. Slosh the wine around your mouth if you like.
When tasting several wines, feel free to spit into a bucket, if one has been provided. Else, take a small swallow and enjoy. Notice all the sensations taking place in your mouth and on your palate.
Did the wine feel good when it landed on your palate? Was the wine smooth, silky, velvet like and lush in texture? Or was the wine rough, dusty or dry? Was the wine light, concentrated and full bodied?
Full bodied refers to the level of alcohol in the wine, which is often felt on the palate due to the amount of glycerin in the wine. Was the wine dense and did it seem concentrated, or was it light, or shallow? Was the wine hot, which is a sign of being unbalanced due to a high level of alcohol?
What did the wine taste and feel like initially? This is known as the attack. How was the fruit, was it fresh? Fresh means lively on your palate. The freshness comes from acidity.
Was the wine sweet, bitter, spicy or sour? Was the wine tart or sour, which can be from under ripe fruits or too much acid? Or was the wine sweet and balanced, the sign of a quality wine.
Balance refers to the all the main elements in the wine not overshadowing each other, fruit, acid and tannin. Using the same process as we practiced with smelling the wine, was the fruit dark or red in character? Were there signs on under ripe flavors?
Those characteristics and traits are all important qualities that every great wine shares. Lastly, the length and persistence of the finish. The longer the good, enjoyable flavors remain in your mouth, the better the wine.
Did the wine taste and feel good from start, (the attack) to the finish? Was the wine complex? Complex means that there were multiple flavors and sensations at once. More is often better when it comes to wine. However, more does not mean too much.
The average wine delivers a finish that is often not longer than 5 to 10 seconds. Very good wines last in your mouth for 20 to 30 seconds. The world’s best wines remain on your palate for up to 1 minute, or even longer!
Another useful tip you might find come in handy is that the size of the bottle can alter how the wine is going to taste. Larger format bottles, for example, magnums or even bigger bottles are going to taste much younger than regular, 750ml bottles of wine.
Smaller bottles are going to taste more mature. Wine bottle sizes and shapes and their effect on wine
Now that you have thoroughly examined the wine, ask yourself, do you want to drink it? Does each sip make you want another taste? Do you want to buy the wine? Do you want your friends to buy the wine?
Does tasting or even better, does drinking this wine make you want to know more about wine? Those are some of the key questions you should ask yourself to determine how much you liked the wine.
Tasting wine and drinking wine are passions many people all over the world enjoy. Using the advice in this article will help you better understand what is in your glass and why you liked a wine, or not. If you follow some or all of these steps, you will become a better wine taster.
One last tip, remembering the wines you tasted if why you liked them or not is going to help you become not only a better wine taster, but a wine better wine buyer as well! Write a few comments down to help you remember.
Take pictures of the labels from the wines you really liked, or didn’t and add a comment. Sooner than later, you will be surprised how much more comfortable you have become, now that you are a better wine taster.