Wine tasting can be enriching, educational and a lot of fun, but it can also be a little intimidating if you are just getting started. We definitely do not want wine to ever be scary, so here are a few tasting basics that will help you feel like a pro in the tasting room.
Step 1. Sight
Hold your glass against a white background and look at your wine. How dark is it? Often times a white wine becomes darker with age while a red wine becomes lighter with age. Practicing this will also help you to distinguish between different grape varieties.
You may hear someone comment on a wine’s “legs.” Legs are determined by examining the streaks of wine that fall down a glass after it has been swirled. This practice says very little about the quality of the wine; however, it is an indicator of a wine’s viscosity, which we will explore in step three.
Step 2. Smell
Take a whiff. Now, swirl your glass and take a whiff. You can probably smell a lot more now right? That is a result of the oxygen mixing with the wine. What do you smell? Keep it simple. Yes, some people may use words like gooseberry or nettle, but sticking to scents you encounter more often like apple, lemon, and blackberry will help you remember the wine upon future recollection.
Step 3. Taste
Finally! Take a sip. Don’t swallow immediately because you want all your taste buds to get some love. Swirl the wine around a bit. The most important sensations you are looking for in a wine are sweetness, sourness, tannin, bitterness, body, and finish. Sweetness should be the most obvious, but it may be masked by a wine’s sourness, which is something you will feel on your cheeks like sucking on a lemon. Tannin will cause the inside of your lips to dry out almost like someone dragged a cotton ball across them. Bitterness is a lasting flavor that you will perceive on your tongue. Body is determined by the levels of sugar, alcohol, or viscosity. Does the wine feel like skim milk or creamer? Lastly, the finish is assessed by how long the wine’s flavors continue after you swallowed the wine? Did it dissipate quickly or linger?
Step 4. Assessment
Now for the most important part, did you like the wine? Now that you have mastered the steps, you should feel confident enough to let your palate decide what you like and what you don’t like. There are truly no wrong answers. And remember, have fun!