how to taste wine

See. Swirl. Smell. Sip. Wine tasting from novice to expert in 4 easy steps!

Look straight down into your wine glass to view the depth of color. This may also hint at the wine’s density in mouth-feel and flavor.

Take a side view, allowing the light to filter through your glass, to judge the wine’s clarity. Murky wine may be a sign of fault, for example a fermentation or chemical problem. It may also simply mean the wine is unfiltered with displaced sediment.

Swirling your glass allows oxygen to enter and aerate your wine; it also kicks up the aroma. As you swirl, note the “legs” running down the sides of the glass. Wines with long legs are typically higher in alcohol and glycerin (alcohol sugar), which can add texture and bulk and can create a full or chewy mouthfeel.

Swirling helps activate the aroma, or bouquet, of a wine, so now it’s time to smell! For best results, try inhaling through your nose and mouth at the same time. Taste is a multi-sensory experience and your sense of smell is a hugely important factor. Allow yourself to enjoy the aroma before tasting for the most rewarding experience.

As you taste your wine, look for balance. Does the wine have a proper ratio of flavors? Look for complementary amounts of sweetness to acidity and tannins to alcohol. Different wines will allow different features to shine, but if a wine is too sour, bitter, sweet, or astringent, it’s unbalanced.

The humble grape offers us a wide range of flavor experiences, when crafted into wine. You may find notes of grapefruit and lychee in a Gewürztraminer, or black cherry and herbs in a Merlot. If the wine has spent time in barrels, be on the lookout for flavors that may be attributed to the oak, like vanilla or cloves.

Let it linger: Wine will grow and change in your mouth. Different parts of your tongue detect different flavor notes. Breathe in deeply through your mouth after you swallow, then breathe out your nose to coax forth even more of the aroma. Allow time for your wine to fully express itself before you take another sip.