How to Taste Wine

Everyone who enjoys a glass of wine can learn to taste wine. All it takes is a little concentration and a few pointers on what to look for. Below are some simple guidelines to help you get the best out of every mouthful.

Appearance

Hold your glass, just a third full, at an angle of about 45 degrees against a white surface and look at the colour at the rim and at the centre.

  • Crispy, light wines will be a pale straw in colour, older, richer or sweeter wines more golden.
  • Generally, white wines gain colour with age, while red wines lose it.
  • A young red will have a pinkish purple rim, an old wine a tawny-brown edge.
  • A light-bodied red will probably be less deep in colour than a fuller-bodied one.

Aroma

The bouquet of a wine is even more important than its taste, as more than half of its flavour is contained in the aroma. Swirl the wine around the glass. Then sniff. Your first impression will always be the strongest; after that your nose will tire.

Taste

Then take a good sip, pucker up, and suck in air over the wine. Notice its initial taste, what flavours develop next and last but not least its finish.

  • How long do the flavours last? The longer the better (obviously) as you are getting more value out of the wine.
  • Are the rich (maybe oaky) flavours of a white wine balanced by enough acidity?
  • Is it a young tannic red wine with enough fruit that will develop with a little age or is it a smooth, fruity red for drinking now?

A Few Helpful Hints

Most of your tasting will occur as part of your drinking; you will hopefully just notice more of the flavours in your glass. However, for a more formal tasting:

  • Use a room with plenty of daylight, so you get a true picture of the wine’s colour.
  • Don’t try to smell and taste wine in an atmosphere heavy in smoke or scent.
  • You don’t need to spit out your precious samples, but your head won’t be clear for long!
  • Dispense with all food, except dry water biscuits and maybe a little mild cheese.

Your wines should follow a simple order, whites before reds, dry before sweet, light before heavy, young before old and cheapest first.