One thing I love about wine is that every time you take a sip, you have a learning experience. So I thought it might be fun to do a little Wine 101, with the focus being on what you can learn when you taste wine.
For starters, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page with the steps involved with wine tasting:
- See the wine
- Smell the wine
- Swirl the wine
- Smell the wine again
- Sip the wine
Taking all of these tasting steps enables you to learn a ton about the wine. Let’s explore step by step.
Step 1: See the Wine
According to Wine Enthusiast’s winemag.com, you want to look at the wine from three angles: Straight down, side and tilted.
When you look straight down, you see the wine’s color and density. The color can often clue you in to the wine you’re encountering. For example, if a red wine is fairly light, it’s likely to be a Pinot Noir. If it’s inky black, you might be looking at a Petite Sirah. If you’re looking at a white wine with a yellow tone, chances are you’re looking at a wine that’s seen oak.
When you look at a side view, you see how clear the wine is.
A tilted view allows you to see if the color changes on the edges. If it looks watery on the edges, it could be a thin wine. If it looks brownish on the edges, it could be an older wine.
Step 2: Smell the Wine
I always like to smell the wine before swirling to see what I can get from a very closed up wine. Once you’ve swirled the wine and opened it up, you are likely to get a much more satisfying aroma.
Step 3: Swirl the Wine
The best way to swirl your wine is to put your glass on a flat surface, hold the stem firmly, and quickly draw circles about two inches wide. The more enthusiastic your swirl, the happier your wine – and you. Why? Because when you swirl the wine, you aerate it. The more oxygen that touches the wine, the more the wine opens up and the more the aromas rise to the surface of your glass. I like to think of this step as telling the wine to come out of its shell. The poor wine has been stuck in a tiny bottle and not been able to fully express itself. You need to encourage it to come out and play – be big and strong.
Mag.com says that during swirling, we should also “notice if the wine forms ‘legs’ or ‘tears’ that run down the sides of the glass. Wines that have good legs are wines with more alcohol and glycerin content, which generally indicates that they are bigger, riper, more mouth-filling and dense than those that do not.”
Step 4: Smell the Wine Again
Take a bunch of short sniffs, looking for aromas of fruit, flowers, herbs, spices, vegetables, wine barrel aromas like vanilla and smoke, earthiness, and anything else you can identify. Don’t obsess over this. Just have fun.
Step 5: Sip the Wine
Observe whether what you smelled comes through in the taste. Does the wine feel balanced? How complex is it? How is the mouthfeel? Dense? Oily? Rough? How is the finish (the experience in your mouth after the wine has gone down)? Long? Short? Does it change at some point?
Wine 101 Takeaways from Your Tasting
Each time you taste wine, you get a lot of Wine 101 takeaways. From the color of the wine to its aromas to its mouthfeel to whether you like the wine. And this last point of course is the most important. At the end of the day, we drink wine because we enjoy it. Keep that in mind with any Wine 101 work you do. You’re learning about wine so you can enjoy it more.
As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!
WineShop At Home