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Wine Tasting How-To

You don't have to be a world-class sommelier to appreciate wine. Armed with your curiosity, a nice bottle of wine and fellow taste testers, you can explore the art of wine.

Tasting Wine: Color, Aroma, Flavor and Finish
  • Use a white background to detect color. Red wines will vary from bright red for young wines to brick red or orange for very aged wines. White wines will vary from a pale straw to an amber golden color.
  • Swirl the glass enough to coat the sides. This will allow oxygen to mix with the wine and release aromas. This will also create legs on the sides of the glass.
  • Take a taste of the wine and allow it to cover the entire inside of your mouth.
  • Draw in air while tasting to magnify the flavors.
  • After tasting the wine, exhale through your nose to expose more flavors.
  • Notice how long the flavors linger in your mouth. This taste is called the finish. Typically, the longer the finish, the finer the wine.

Assessing Wines There are three basic components to assessing wines. Assessing wine should be more about exploring all the characteristics that make a wine unique.

Sight or Eye

  • Color - Is the color right and pleasing? Young wines should be bright. Older reds will tend to lose color becoming brown or orange while older whites tend to darken with age.
  • Clarity - Is the wine cloudy or clear? New World wines (wines from North America, South America, New Zealand and Australia tend to be filtered more and are clearer. Old World wines (wines from France, Italy, Germany and Spain) can be muted or cloudy.
  • Legs - Do the tears on the inside of the glass run thick and slow or are they thin and fast? Thick, slow legs can indicate a big, full-bodied wine.
  • Bubbles - If you taste sparkling wine, are the beads (bubbles) small and plentiful? The smaller and more abundant they are, the better the bubbly.

Smell or Nose

  • Flaws - Is the wine Corked or Oxidized? Corked wine typically smells like wet cardboard. Oxidized wines will seem flat, often having a lack of color, aroma, or flavor.
  • Aromas - What are the fresh and fruity smells? Grass, floral, and citrus are common white wine aromas. Black or red fruits and licorice are common aromas for red wines.

Taste or Palate
Think about the flavors that cross your palate. Common examples are:

  • Fruit - black currant, citrus, apricot, cherry
  • Flowers - honeysuckle, violets
  • Earth - mineral, chalk, mushrooms
  • Nutty - hazelnut, almond
  • Herbs - grass, tobacco, rosemary
  • Spice - clove, vanilla, cinnamon, pepper
  • Vegetable - bell pepper, leafy
  • Wood - smoke, toast, pine