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Wine Tasting
How do I taste a wine?

The point of wine is to give pleasure. And, wine is easy to enjoy. That said, the business of tasting wine should not be intimidating, but fun. The following steps (just remember the letter “s”) take just a little time, yet they give you the benefit of truly appreciating and understanding the nuances of each variety.

1. SEE

Hold the glass by its stem and tip it away from you, preferably against a white background. The white allows you to see the different shades of color, particularly at the rim where the age of a wine tends to show. Red wines range from deep purple to pale tawny; whites go from pale greenish-yellow to deep gold. As a rule, red wines lose color with age; whites deepen in color with age. Usually, the browner a wine, the older it is.


Wine’s flavor molecules are given off only on the surface of the liquid. By swirling, you maximize the wine’s surface area and release more of the bouquet. As you swirl, lift the glass to your nose.


Smelling is a very important part of the tasting process. Think about how smell affects your enjoyment of food. Smell the wine three times, swirling each time to release the bouquet. Notice if the wine is clean and attractive, the intensity of the smell, and what the aromas bring to mind. Negative or “off ” smells are:

  • Vinegar: Too much acetic acid in wine.
  • Sherry: Too much oxygen in wine.
  • Cork: Wine has absorbed the taste of defective cork making it musty or moldy in flavor.
  • Sulfur: Too much sulfur dioxide present. (Sulfur dioxide is used as a preservative.)


4. SIP

Take a sip of wine and try to make sure that all of the tongue is exposed to the liquid. Hold the wine in your mouth for 3 seconds before swallowing. Notice how sweet or sour, bitter, astringent, or alcoholic the wine is. Gauge the body of the wine. Think skim milk, milk, heavy cream. Also, how does the wine feel in your mouth? The term "mouth feel" is used for the sensations experienced.


Now is the time to assess the wine as a whole. Do I like this wine? Why or why not? Were all the elements in balance or did one of them seem obtrusive? In young reds, tannin often dominates while young whites are often very acid. In an older wine, this lack of balance would be a fault. Is the wine light, medium, or full-bodied? What kinds of food would work well with this wine?