Wine tasting: Learn how to taste wine in 5 easy steps

You don’t just taste wine. You look. Swirl. Smell. And assess. With these 5 steps you will know the basics of tasting in no time and you will get the most out of your glass of wine.

Step 1. Look at your glass

Grab your glass by the stem and hold it against a neutral background. The hue of the wine reveals which grape it is and how old the wine is. Because:

  • White goes from young green to old yellow.
  • Red goes from light red to rusty brown.
  • Rose goes in all directions, from orange to strawberry pink, old or young.

Step 2. Swirling your wine

Swirling, or spinning circles in your glass. As soon as wine is exposed to oxygen, its aroma compounds become more detectable as they attach themselves to evaporating alcohol as it lifts from the glass. Oxygen also can help to soften harsh tannins on bigger wines, allowing them to become smoother and silkier.

Swirling can be done in 2 ways:

  1. Swirl on the table. Place the glass on the table, hold it by the base or stem and turn around as if you were drawing small circles on the table.
  2. Swirl in the air. Spin your wine glass as you hold it up in the air by the stem. Tip: practice table swirling first.

Keep it simple. Making big turns with your glass doesn’t add anything. Also make sure your glass isn’t too full.

Why do you swirl wine? Because:

  • Oxygen gets to the wine. So more aromas are released.
  • Aromas linger in your glass.
  • You taste more, which of course is the goal.

Try new wines and decide what you like best.

Step 3. Smell short, but powerful

Put your nose in the glass until your nose just barely touches the wine. Smell in your glass: short and sweet. This way you discover as many aromas as possible at the same time! This is kind of a preview of what you’re probably going to taste. Wine should just smell good. Flowers, fruit, whatever you want. Don’t you smell anything? Or cork? Throw away that wine!
Do you smell vanilla or wet dog?

What you smell is often a personal association. But often a grape has a specific smell that has to do with the grape or the production. Have no idea what you smell? Doesn’t matter at all. Practice makes perfect!

These are the most common wine scents:

  • Fruity: Think cherries, berries and forest fruits in red & citrus in white.
  • Floral: Fragrances like blossom occur in white and light red wines.
  • Earthy: Tones like soil, minerals, and even rock.
  • Spicy: Think of scents like pepper.
  • Vanilla: Toast, chocolate and coffee are especially noticeable in wines that have been aged in a wooden barrel.
  • Animal: Think grass, stable or horse. What? Yes really! These odors arise after ripening.

Step 4. Slurp and taste!

This is how you do this:

  1. So you slurp. If you really want to taste good.
  2. Chew the wine in your mouth as if you were rinsing with mouthwash. 4 seconds is enough. Longer isn’t good anymore.
  3. Swallow or spit (not too hard) into the bucket. Which of the two you choose depends on your plans and your own judgment after 19 wines.
  4. If you do swallow, try as slowly as you can. Note the feeling the wine gives in your throat.

Keep the following in mind while tasting:

  • Do the flavors match what you just smelled?
    Does your tongue feel dry? Do you get a stiff feeling in your mouth? There is a good chance that this is due to the tannin content.

Step 5. Respond: Like it or not?

Took a sip? What do you think about it? Think about whether the flavors you’ve just tasted match what you’ve smelled. How is the aftertaste? Does the alcohol burn in your throat or not? Do you have a rough feeling in your mouth? Write down everything you have seen, smelled, tasted and felt. You decide with which words you do that. In the end it comes down to what you think of the wine. And with that we can actually be very brief: do you like the wine or would you rather leave it alone? You decide.