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How to Taste Wine

Here are a few 101 tips to keep in mind as you sip and swirl so that you can make the most of your tasting experience.

Why taste wine?

Professional wine tasters go through the formal tasting process to assess the quality of a wine and to rate it in comparison to other similar wines. While you are probably not a professional taster, you can use the same techniques to help you identify what about a wine you enjoy or dislike.

How to organize a wine tasting at home

There's no "right" way to organize a wine tasting. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

AN INTRODUCTION TO WINE TASTING

When hosting a wine tasting, select five to six different varietals, such as a Zinfandel, Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and Pinot Noir, and taste them side-by-side. This will illuminate the distinct differences across these kinds of wine. Our World Tour Red Wine Collection and Popular Reds Case are great starting points for this kind of tasting.

AROUND THE WORLD WINE TASTING

For this type of wine tasting, select several bottles of the same varietal from as many different growing wine regions as practical. For example you might try Pinot Noir from California, Oregon, France and Germany. This kind of tasting helps demonstrate the stylistic differences found across the world. We have several Wine Tasting Kits created for this kind of tasting, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay. You can also follow one of our experts as they taste through the trios!

HORIZONTAL WINE TASTING

Pick a single region, varietal and vintage, and taste several wines from different producers (all of the same region, varietal and vintage). The differences between wines may be more subtle, but it will highlight the various styles and winemaking techniques employed by the various producers.

VERTICAL WINE TASTING

Select a single wine and taste various vintages of that wine next to each other. This type of wine tasting will expose the effects of bottle aging and the variations of weather from year to year.

OTHER WINE TASTING 101 TIPS

While there are many ways to organize a wine tasting, there is only one rule to abide: taste the wines in order of body - from light to full. The delicate aromas and flavors of the lighter wines will be overwhelmed if you go in the opposite order.

As you become more familiar with different varietals and styles of wine, try your next tasting blind. Cover up the bottles and their labels before you pour them and test yourself on your ability to identify which wine it is.

What to Look For When Tasting Wine

WINE'S APPEARANCE

First, look at the wine. Pour a few ounces into a glass and hold it against a white background.

Is the wine a deep purple, ruby-red or brownish-brick? Pale green, lemon or gold? The color and it's intensity are indicative of the grape variety and the wine's age. With age, all wines (both red and white) will turn more brown. For reds that means it typically fades in intensity, and for whites that it grows darker.

Swirl the wine gently in the glass and look for "legs" that run down the sides of the glass. The longer these linger along the glass, the more viscous the wine which indicates a higher level of alcohol and typically a fuller body.

WINE SMELL

Swirl your wine again to release its aromas, and give it a good sniff. Smelling the wine will give you a preview of the taste and also tell you a bit about the winemaking process. Think first about the fruit aromas - these are typically the most obvious. Do you smell red fruit or black fruit? Citrus or peach? Is it fresh fruit or dried fruit?

Next, look for spices (vanilla, clove, chocolate, etc.) and wood (cedar and smoke). These come from the winemaking process (oak-aging for example). In white or sparkling wines you might also sense biscuit flavors or creaminess, which are from yeast and malolactic fermentation.

Smell again for savory aromas like earth, mushroom, tobacco and even meat or petrol. These are aromas that typically develop with age.

WINE FLAVOR

Finally, it's time to taste the wine! How do the flavors differ from the aromas you smelled? Are there any new elements to add to your assessment? Is there a sweetness, or did you just sense it in the aromatics?

Swish the wine in your mouth and think about the weight on your tongue. Is it light and watery, or thick and viscous? This is what is referred to as "body".

Take a swallow and notice how quickly you salivate. Does it start immediately? That is an indicator of acidity. Is there a lingering astringency on your tongue? That would be the tannins. The silkier and finer the tannins the more quickly the feeling will dissipate.

How long do the flavors last in your mouth? Do they fade quickly or last for you to savor? This is the "finish." As you might expect, the longer the better.

And most importantly, do you enjoy the wine? That of course is the most important indicator!

Taste Wine With Us!
Watch the video below to learn how to taste wine.

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