How to Taste Wine
How to Taste Wine
Feed your senses.
Wine tasting encompasses all five senses – how people perceive the look, flavors, smells, tactile sensations, and even the sound of wine. Each of your senses enhances the tasting experience, so you should pay keen attention to the following as you ready yourself to taste that glass of wine:
- LISTEN. Just as we start to salivate when we hear the chopping of veggies or bacon sizzling, listening to a wine bottle cork pop (or cap being unscrewed!) as well as the wine flowing from the bottle into the glass starts out the tasting experience on the right note. So in the tasting room, take a moment to listen to the bottle's opening, glasses clinking, and wine pouring. It sets the stage for what’s to come.
- LOOK. Want to know what you might be in for? Check out the wine’s clarity, color (and concentration of color), hue, and viscosity. They’ll provide valuable clues to what the wine may taste like or where its origins lie.
- SMELL. A wine’s nose (aroma) contains many different aromatic compounds. The first we smell are the primary aromas. These come from the grapes and are “fruity” in smell. The secondary aromas are attained from the fermentation process and are more complex. As a wine matures, it develops a third set of aromas that are the most complex to identify. What you get, even after bottling, are some chemical reactions that will change the wine over time and allow it to develop more subtle and complex "smells". As the wine ages, the fruitiness usually subsides after time (depending on the wine) and other aromatics become more noticeable. These may smell like black currants, truffles, or rich spices in some reds. A Riesling may develop a petrol (yes, petrol) scent after proper aging; this is due to the fruit aromas subsiding and chemical reactions occurring.
- TASTE. Tasting essentially helps to confirm what your nose knows. To taste wine like a pro, try rolling the wine around in your mouth so that it comes in contact with all major taste areas. Sipping in a slight bit of air into the mouth will help to release more of the shifting compounds and magnify the taste. It may sound as though your wine is “gurgling”; then you know you’re doing it right.
- FEEL. Tasting also involves feeling. Tasting includes the weight or body of wine. It basically translates into how the wine feels on your tongue. The fuller the body of the wine, the more lasting the taste and heavier the feel of the wine is in your mouth. Weight is distinguished through a combination of alcohol, glycerol, tannin, sugar, and all other non-water elements, known collectively as extract. After swallowing (or spitting) you can make a better judgment as to a wine’s body.
- EXTRA CREDIT: As you improve your tasting skills, you will begin to notice a wine’s balance and finish. Balance refers to the overall harmony of the components of sugar, acid, tannin, and alcohol. A wine with good balance means that no one component dominates. In essence, these components are presenting themselves equally. The length of time those flavors linger in the mouth is known as the finish.
With these steps in the back of your mind, see how your next wine tasting experience differs than your previous. Did you pick up on some new flavor notes? Notice the weight of the wine in your mouth, and how long that flavor stays with you? We encourage you to practice and share your tasting notes on our social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.