How to Taste Wine Like a Pro

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The most important aspect of tasting wine is smelling it. Most of "tasting" something is experiencing its aroma.

Things You'll Need

  • Wines
  • Corkscrews
  • Wine Glasses

Smelling and Initial Tasting

  • Bring the glass down to a normal level and, while holding the stem, swirl the glass rapidly. This will increase the surface area of the wine by allowing it to move up the sides of the glass. This also helps to release the volatile chemicals of the wine into the air.

  • Stop swirling. Insert your nose into the glass and inhale by taking quick, full sniffs. Some people prefer to take short sniffs, some prefer to just stick their nose in and leave it there for a while. Determine any off-odors, identify any grape aroma and rank the strength of the aroma.

  • Analyze the aroma further. Try to detect the smell of fruity or floral notes. Decide what they remind you of if possible. Next, note the presence of spices, such as pepper, anise, cinnamon, vanilla, tea or possibly nuts. Finally, note the presence of other aromas, such as cedar, oak, dust, moist earth, herbs, chocolate, tobacco, toastiness, smoke, tar, mushrooms, red meat, grass, hay, or asparagus.

  • Sip a small amount of wine and move it over your entire tongue so that all your taste buds come in contact with it. The trick to tasting wine is to allow the aromas of the wine to enter your nasal passageway at the back of your throat. Some people pucker their lips and suck in a small amount of air through the wine. Others find it easier to chew the wine as if it were food. Both of these methods will force the aromas of the wine through the nasal passage and will increase your experience of the wine.

  • Note how long the flavors remain in your mouth after you've swallowed the wine. This is called length. Some wines can have up to one minute of length. Also be aware of any overbearing presence of alcohol. A wine should have enough balance that you're barely aware of the alcohol in it.

Judging

  • Look for a very light shade of straw-toned color in white wines such as chardonnay and white Riesling. For semillon and sauvignon blanc, look for a more definite yellow color. For sweeter wines, look for a more golden color.

  • Note colors of red wines range from pink to different tones of purple. Rosés are usually medium pink. A brown tinge in a rosé is usually not desirable. Red wines range from "medium red" to "high red." A purple could indicate a young wine or a particular variety of grape.

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  • Check for clarity of the wine. Notice if the wine is clear and free of suspended material - this is termed a brilliant wine. Some descriptions to use include brilliant, clear, dull, and cloudy. Dull indicates haziness, and cloudy indicates heavy amounts of suspended material.

  • As a beginner, focus on unwanted smells such as yeast, wood, mold, sulfur dioxide, oxidation (brackishness), acetic acid (vinegar) and hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg).

  • Taste for sweetness or dryness. An acid bite indicates the vitality of the wine. Taste for excessive tannins (bitter and rough)and for vinegar flavor, which is usually not desirable.

  • Note boldness, fullness and richness while tasting. These tend to indicate a wine with good body.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you've snickered at people who swirl their wine incessantly, you won't any longer. This is the best way to allow wine to have its intended effect on your senses.
  • Some funny (but genuine) taste and aroma descriptors are: horsey, barnyard, cat urine, mossy, hot, stewed, cooked, yeasty, dirty and candied.
  • Strong aromas of wet cardboard, vinegar, Madeira, sulfur or nail polish indicate a problem with a table wine. Wines that smell of these are not harmful to drink, but they won't taste very good either.

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