The Insider's Guide to Wine Tasting

Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be innately gifted to become a wine taster. As long as you've got eyes that see, a nose that smells, a tongue that tastes and a desire to learn, you are all set.

Tasting wine and learning to verbalize that experience is no different than anything else in life; the only way to get better at it is to practice. Whether you are tasting wine in a more formal setting, or just enjoying it with some friends, it's always important to take a couple of seconds and describe to yourself what you have in front of you. Especially when blind tasting, your ability to recall previously tasted wines is a huge factor, so writing notes and going over them the next day is extremely helpful. This is just like any other muscle; the more you work it, the bigger it gets.

When you are done, you should be able to tell the type of the wine you tasted by just reading what you have written. Here is a helpful guide to composing your tasting notes (We're referring specifically to red wine because this is the default setting for red wine. The process, though not the details, is mostly the same for white wines):


This might be the least helpful of them all, but it will still give you some clues as to what grape it could be and how old the wine is, especially when tasting redwine. Look at the wine in the glass, then swirl it and see how the legs - the rivulets that run down the side of the glass - look. Red wine starts out purple, then moves to ruby, red, brick, and finally brown as it gets older. Also take note of the viscosity, as this will help confirm the weight on the palate. Don't get too hung up on the legs; just take note on how prominent they are.

This sense is perhaps the most important. We have the ability to distinguish over a thousand aromatic compounds, and certain grapes show specific aromatics, making smell wildly helpful. I always check for the ripeness of the aromatics in every glass that comes close to my nose. Riper aromas will give a good indication of warmer climates, and vice versa. Also, it is important to note the maturity of the fruit. Are the aromas still primary? Or have they evolved secondary and tertiary characteristics? Secondary and tertiary characteristics - notes such as leather, cigar tobacco and tar - can indicate an older vintage or a wine that's mature despite its chronological age.


This part, when assessed correctly, is the most helpful part in describing a wine to someone. Does it feel more like water or more like cream? Does the wine feel angular on the palate or round and smooth? Also take note on how dry the wine is and how much you can feel the alcohol, as these indicate its origin and variety.

The finish of wine might be the most important quality. After all, if you are drinking a $100 bottle, you should let that delicious flavor linger for a while! You also want to take what you have written down qualitatively and transform it into a brief tasting note. This is what you will ultimately remember, and it can help you buy wine that you suspect you'll like even when you've never had it before. It's also fun to impress your friends with your newfound skills.


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