Ahh, the best and usually most exciting thing that we do everyday. I bet you’ve watched a wine judge at work, sniffing, swirling, tasting and spitting, and wondered if all the noise and activity was really necessary? Well, there is a set of steps that help release the maximum aromas and reveal the wines secrets that all wine lovers can follow. Please read further and broaden your understanding.
How to taste wine
- Step 1 - Look at the wine
- Step 2 - Swirl the wine
- Step 3 - Note the viscosity
- Step 4 - Sniff the wine
- Step 5 - Take a sip
- Step 6 - Aspirate
- Step 7 - Take another sip
- Step 8 - Note the aftertaste
- Step 9 - The Experience
Look at the wine, especially around the edges.
Tilting the glass a bit can make it easier to see the way the color changes from the center to the edges. Holding the glass in front of a white background, such as a napkin, tablecloth, or sheet of paper, is another good way to make out the wine’s true color.
Look for the color of the wine and the clarity. Intensity, depth or saturation of color are not necessarily linear with quality. White wines become darker as they age while time causes red wines to lose their color turning more brownish, often with a small amount of harmless, dark red sediment in the bottom of the bottle or glass.
This is also a good time to catch a preliminary sniff of the wine so you can compare its fragrance after swirling. This will also allow you to check for any off odors that might indicate spoiled (corked) wine.
Swirl the wine in your glass
This is to increase the surface area of the wine by spreading it over the inside of the glass allowing them to escape from solution and reach your nose. It also allows some oxygen into the wine, which will help its aromas open up.
Note the wine’s viscosity
How slowly it runs back down the side of the glass – while you’re swirling. More viscous wines are said to have “legs,” and are likely to be more alcoholic. Outside of looking pretty, this has no relation to a wine’s quality but may indicate a more full bodied wine.
Sniff the wine
Initially you should hold the glass a few inches from your nose. Then let your nose go into the glass. What do you smell?
Take a sip
Take a sip of wine, but do not swallow yet. Roll the wine around in your mouth exposing it to all of your taste buds. You will only be able to detect sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (think: meaty or savory). Pay attention to the texture and other tactile sensations such as an apparent sense of weight or body.
Aspirate through the wine
With your lips pursed as if you were to whistle, draw some air into your mouth and exhale through your nose. This liberates the aromas for the wine and allows them to reach your nose where they can be detected. The nose is the only place where you can detect a wine’s aromas. However, the enzymes and other compounds in your mouth and saliva alter some of a wine’s aromatic compounds. By aspirating through the wine, you are looking for any new aromas liberated by the wine’s interaction with the environment of your mouth.
Take another sip
Take another sip of the wine, but this time (especially if you are drinking a red wine) introduce air with it. In other words, slurp the wine (without making a loud slurping noise, of course). Note the subtle differences in flavor and texture.
Note the aftertaste
Note the aftertaste when you swallow. How long does the finish last? Do you like the taste?
Write down what you experienced
You can use whatever terminology you feel comfortable with. The most important thing to write down is your impression of the wine and how much you liked it. Many wineries provide booklets and pens so that you can take your own tasting notes. This will force you to pay attention to the subtleties of the wine. Also, you will have a record of what the wine tastes like so that you can pair it with meals or with your mood.