Becoming a better wine taster is the first step in becoming a better wine buyer. Our goal today is two-fold: to be able to help you identify a wines quality and be able to detect its faults and to dispel any fears or uncertainties you might have about wine tasting. At it’s core wine tasting is really just a three step process: look, smell and taste. That’s it! I’m willing to bet you do all three on a daily basis, now let’s see how we can apply them and learn to taste wine like a pro!
Step One: Look
The way a wine looks can give you a lot of clues about what’s in the glass. However, most of this information can also be found on the bottle (vintage,varietal, ect) so don’t get discouraged if you can’t discern what the wine is from sight alone.
Pro Tip: Hold out and tilt the glass slightly, note the depth of color from rim to the center of glass
As a general rule of thumb- the deeper and richer the colors the more concentrated the wine.
Since we are talking sight here is a great visual to help you decipher what you see.
Step Two: Smell
Almost 85% of your sense of taste is derived from smell. Before taking a sniff you will want to swirl your glass. This act oxygenates the wine, releases its scents into the air and also coats the glass at the same time.
Pro Tip: Keep your glass anchored to the table when you swirl to prevent spillage.
Now time to get in there and smell, there is no right or wrong way to do this and you should use whichever technique you find works best for you. For some that is inhaling deeply, while others find small short sniffs work better for them.
Pro Tip: Keep your mouth open slightly when inhaling and exhaling the scent to be able detect more complex aromas
First you will want to check the wine for flaws. Does it smell like a musty old attic or wet newspaper? If so, then the wine is most likely corked.
It is important to remember that the scents in wine are familiar to us. It is easiest to try to identify broad aromas and narrow down from there. Trying to identity that note of black currant right out the gate might seem like a herculean feat to the untrained nose. Start with broad categories and work your way down? Is it tropical? Floral? Dark Fruit?
Primary Aromas come from the grapes themselves: Fruit, Herbs, Floral
Secondary Aromas come from wine making: Yeast, Cheese, Nuts
Tertiary Aromas come from the aging process: Spices, Vanilla, Tobacco, Leather
Step Three: Taste
Yes! Now that you have looked and smelled it’s finally time to taste!
Truly tasting wine involves more than primary sensations of sweet, salt, bitter, sour and Umami. You should also pay attention to the texture and length of the experience. When tasting wine, you asses the wines balance, structure, palate feel, level of sweetness, acidity, complexity and length of the finish.
Was the wine smooth and velvety? Was it rough and dusty? Was it light or full bodied?
The longer good enjoyable flavors remain in your mouth the better! If the wine is complex there will be multiple flavors and sensations present at once.
Now that you’ve looked, smelled and tasted you’re probably asking yourself how can tell if the wine was actually good? Some good questions to ask yourself. Do I want to continue drinking this wine? Would I buy this wine? Would I recommend it to friends and family?
The good news for you wine lovers out there is that you become a better wine taster with the more wine you taste, so grab a glass and get tasting!