How to Taste Wine
4 Steps to Wine Tasting | Drink Like a Pro
Drinking wine & tasting wine may sound very similar to the average drinker. But at the end of the day, however, there is a difference between simply drinking wine and tasting it.
If you'd like to get the most out of every drop of wine, you'll want to follow these 4 steps.
Believe it or not, these steps can be done in under 15 seconds once you've had a bit of practice.
Do you want to drink like a pro? Follow the 4 'S's of wine tasting:
Because we have a mission to reduce wine waste (and bills to pay!), we're going to put this here...
Let's dive into each step to tasting wine and summarize at the end!
Looking at a wine is more of an evaluation step for the pros than a way to improve the experience. It indicates the condition of the wine and gives clues as to the varietal. Of course, it can be fun for the rest of us to compare wines, too.
The best way to look at a wine is to use a white paper or cloth and to tilt the glass on a 45-degree angle.
So, what are you looking for?
Does the wine look "normal"?
- Is there something floating in it?
- Is it clear?
- Do you see weird "spottiness" (may be soap from the glass!)
- Is the wine "cloudy"? Its okay for wine to appear "cloudy" if it's older in age or unfiltered wines
How intense is the color?
The age of the wine, the varietal, and level of oak treatment affect the color.
- The ranges of colors are broad. White wines can be a pale lemon-green to deep gold.
- Reds range from pale purple to deep tawny.
Look for the "Legs" on the side of the glass after you Swirl. If the “legs” drip back into the glass slow and appear thick, the wine has plenty of body and alcohol content.
But... what if you can't actually see beyond its a "white" or "red" wine?
The ability to judge appearance improves over time and is more of an intermediate skill.
This is a skill that will really improve your wine experience. Swirling is done to Aerate the wine and increase the intensity of the wine's Aromas.
Make sure your glass is no more than half full, ideally less than 25%.
Slowly make a circle with your glass, preferably one with a stem, on a smooth countertop.
Swirl in midair with your non-dominant hand.
The aromas in wine are arguably the most important part of the wine's quality.
Taking a moment to smell your wine isn't just important to judge its quality or condition. The aromas in wine can be highly enjoyable and offer clues as to what you’ll taste. In fact, the majority of our taste sensation actually comes from our nose.
One study found that between 75 and 95% of what we perceive as "Flavors" are actually Aromas. Flavour 2015
So for a wine to taste "good" without food, it almost needs to have enticing aromas.
To Smell Wine...
Put your nose directly inside the glass. Don’t be shy!
- Can you smell anything? Aromas of high quality wines can be detected from just outside the glass
- Are the aromas intense?
Find major types of aromas before getting too specific
- Fruit and floral, spice and vegetable, and oak are major categories.
- Specific aromas may include green fruit, citrus, stone fruit, tropical fruit, red or black fruit, herbaceous vegetables, herbal notes, sweet or pungent spice, toast, oak, or minerality.
If you want to take a step toward identifying rather than just enjoying...
An Aroma Wheel can help identify the Aromas found in a wine.
Now it’s time to taste in order to evaluate the wine’s palate profile and decide if you want to have it again. Plus, more often than not, you can taste something delicious!
To Taste the wine:
Take a small sip.
Swish it around your mouth.
Swallow (or Spit into a container).
Take note of the way your mouth feels.
- Do you find elements of sweetness, acidity, tannins (causing your mouth to dry out), or high alcohol?
- How long does the taste linger (Finish)?
Did you enjoy the overall wine experience?
Follow the 4 steps to wine tasting (See, Swirl, Smell, and Sip) to fully enjoy your wine and perform some basic evaluations. You’re a pro!
Where to Find Wine Tastings?
If you want to practice these techniques, there are a few places you can do it.
Wineries and Vineyards
Obviously there is a lot of wine tasting in traditional wine country (Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley outside of California).
However - there are almost 10,000 wineries in the US. Many of these may be closer than you think. For example - we are based in Chicago and have 3 strong wineries within 25 miles.
A good resource for locating wineries near you: American Winery Guide
Wine Tasting Bars
There are likely many bars near you that specialize in wine. The way it generally works is you can order wine by the glass or order a tasting ($2-15 each). In this will be an arrangement of options.
We highly recommend people go and enjoy wine tasting near them. Look especially for places that have a large variety of wines and that rotate the selection.
Be prepared - many of these places are trying to up-sell you to either a wine club or to take home a bottle. Remember - if you don't like the wines served, you don't have to take them home!
Wine Tasting Festivals
Let the wineries come to you!
These events are only one or a couple days, but can be loads of fun. You purchase tickets and can sample from multiple vendors which are a mix of regional wineries, distributors, and wine vendors.
Wine Festivals can be a great opportunity to try a variety of wines at a reasonable price.
Try searching "Wine Tasting" + your zip code to find a wine bar or festival near you.
Need more wine basics? Check out our Wine Guide below!