How to taste wine like a pro
Ever wanted to learn how taste a wine like an expert or want to know what people are talking about when they talk about things like length or legs? This is the guide for you!
Learning to taste wine will help you pick out flavours in the wines and also notice some potential faults. The more you tune into your senses and train your palate the better you’ll be able to understand and enjoy nuances and details of different varietals.
Our Cellar Door Manager, Seth and Comms Manager Flip have put together this comprehensive step by step guide so you can learn how to taste wine like a pro!
First things first, the circumstances of your wine tasting can actually affect your impressions of a wine! Make sure you take the steps to neutralise your tasting conditions. You can do this by ensuring the wine is served at its correct temperature, ensuring your glass is clean and finally try and make sure you are in neutral air, strong aromas can affect how you smell and taste a wine.
Slightly tilt your glass in some good lighting to check out the colour, opacity and viscosity from the centre of the glass to where the wine meets the rim of the glass. This will offer clues about variety and age but remember it isn’t an indicator of quality.
A young red wine should be purple or ruby in colour while older reds lose their colour in time turning brick red to brownish and have a small amount of sediment in the bottom of the bottle.
A young white will have hints of green on its rim and get naturally darker with age. If a white wine is brown, taste with caution as it is either very old or oxidised.
Is the wine clear or cloudy? Opacity is an indicator of whether or not there has been great care taken during the creation and fermentation of the wine (although some styles are deliberately cloudy, read the label if unsure!).
Much used to be made of a wine’s legs (the streaks of wine that crawl down the glass), bigger wines that have more alcohol or sugar will have more pronounced legs. This is in no way an indicator of quality or taste especially in new world wines, so don’t pay too much heed to this beyond a cursory glance!
Swirl the wine in the glass (draw a circle with the glass on the table if your swirling game isn’t strong!) Swirling much more importantly allows oxygen into the wine which helps in opening its aromas and will allow you to properly assess a wines smell before assessing its taste, sweetness, acidity, tannins and length.
What do you smell? Swirl the wine in the glass (draw a circle with the glass on the table if your swirling game isn’t strong!) and take several sniffs to gather all of the aromas. Enjoyable wine is enticing on the nose and gives you a preview of what is to come. A vibrant and fresh aroma is a great sign of good wine while smelling notes of paper could indicate a corked wine and a sherry aroma could mean the wine is oxidised. Look for aromas of fruit, as well as savoury elements and wine making factors (such as oak or yeast).
Sip and swirl the wine around in your mouth so the wine can hit all of the different sensors and give a chance for you to identify the flavours you can taste. If possible draw a little air into your mouth at the same time to allow the aromas to draw up into the olfactory system (the part of your sense of smell that influences how you taste!), this is actually one of the biggest factors in getting the most out of your tasting. The majority of our sense of taste is influenced by our sense of smell! Enjoy the wine and look for the following:
Is the wine sweet or dry? Most table wines are actually quite dry, but we can often be confused by the fruitiness of a wine. Is it fruit sweetness you can taste or residual sugar? This can take practice!
Acidity is important for creating an overall balance in the wine. If there is too much acid it will taste tart and sharp while it will taste flat and dull if there isn’t enough.
If you are drinking red wine (or some styles of bold whites) you may notice tannins in the wine which come from pips, stalks and skins of red grapes, as well as the barrels they are aged in. Tannins essentially feel like they dry your mouth out or may make it pucker. Imagine a cup of cold tea, that drying sensation is tannin! Tannin is essential for creating complex structure in wines as well as helping its longevity. They do soften over time enhancing the other flavours and allowing for truly complex wines to evolve and grow.
After spitting or drinking be sure to enjoy the aftertaste. Other flavours can become apparent that weren’t before. Look for a long enjoyable after taste. Can you still taste what you enjoyed in the wine a minute or two later? This is a sign of a quality.
Assess the tasting of the wine. Was it balanced? Do you enjoy it? If it is too astringent would it improve and soften with age? Is it ready to drink now? What food would go with it nicely? If you’re unsure, share with a friend. The best part of a good bottle of wine is sharing the experience with someone else!