A Simple step-by-step guide about how to taste wine
Tasting wine may intimidate a person who is approaching this noble art without having attended great schools with great teachers.
Still, the etymology of tasting wine leads to the word wine tasting, that means feeling its taste and flavour. What we are used to do every day by appreciating food on our tables.
So what makes the wine tasting experience so complex? The answer is not in the action itself but in the product we are going to analyse.
In fact, wine is composed of a multiplicity of factors that make it the extraordinary product that we all admire. Learning how to taste wine is therefore synonymous with learning about it in all its facets.
The professional wine tasting is based on the concept of being able to objectively recognise the quality of wine through our senses – such as sight, smell and taste – and through our knowledge.
Below you will find a simple step-by-step wine guide for beginners to approach different wines.
The place and time to taste wine
Talking about how to taste wine is not exposing a written law: we know that external parameters will inevitably influence the wine you are tasting and your judgment.
The place where the wine tasting will take place should be ventilated, free of perfumes deriving from flowers, candles or air fresheners that could divert our olfactory perception. Good diffused lighting and a preferably white top are also important because they will allow you to better appreciate the colour of wine and all the visual characteristics that we will discuss later.
A minimum of physical preparation is also required to taste the wine.
There is no need for the gym and it is not about getting ready for swimsuit season, but you should take simple precautions before approaching the wine tasting: do not smoke, do not chew gum or candy and be fasting for a few hours (as long as you are not doing a wine tasting with food pairings). The use of body perfumes is not recommended.
Last but not least, we find the characteristics closely related to the wine service.
As you know, each type of wine has its serving temperature which will allow the wine to best express its full potential.
The right tool to taste wine is the wine glass, which must be made of thin transparent glass to allow you the visual analysis. With regard to the shape, you should choose wine glasses with stem in order to allow you to hold the glass by the steam and bring it closer to your face without changing the wine characteristics (for example, fingers may cause shaded areas or heat your wine during the wine tasting).
The organoleptic characteristics of different types of wine are enhanced by their specific wine glass: usually the stem is longer for white wines and it is shorter for red wines, up to the older ones with a very short stem.
Even the cup varies according to the structure and ageing of wine.
To better enjoy the wine tasting and not to influence your judgment, I advise you to leave any emotional tension and any prejudice outside the wine experience!
How to taste wine?
The wine tasting is divided into 3 main parts related to the use of our senses: sight, smell, taste and touch.
Yes, the touch and later we will see why it is so important to taste wine.
Very often when wine is served in a restaurant, the automatic gesture for wine tasters is to move the glass forming a small vortex.
Why is it done? And is it really the first thing to do to taste wine?
In fact, before making this gesture, you should dwell on the clarity and transparency of wine.
First of all you will have to raise the wine glass in front of your eyes, observe the wine against the light and notice if there are suspended particles and then evaluate its clarity.
Based on how the liquid is traversed by light, you will analyse the transparency.
Next, you will have to lower the wine glass, tilting it slightly, on a preferably white surface to be able to appreciate its colour tone and intensity.
Red wines may have colours from purple to orange and white wines from greenish to amber.
This range of colours not only characterises the type of wine, but above all it gives us a clue on the evolution of the wine itself.
In fact, with ageing the wine inevitably undergoes a slow oxidation and a visible transformation of the wine colour.
So you can easily guess that a white wine with greenish hues will probably be a young wine, or a red wine with orange tones will probably have undergone an almost complete oxidation.
Finally, at this point of the wine tasting guide, a part of the long-awaited answer: one of the reasons why the wine is made to flow on the walls of the glass is to analyze FLUIDITY, that is consistency.
A wine flows smoothly when its fluidity is comparable to that of water.
By rotating the wine, you will notice the bows that are formed from the residue on the wine glass: the narrower the bows, the higher the alcoholic concentration.
In sparkling wines, EFFERVESCENCE is also analysed.
Thanks to the visual analysis you can expect to find certain characteristics while tasting wine.
At this stage of wine tasting, you can evaluate the intensity, quality, complexity and nature of the wine aromas.
You will start tasting wine by slowly moving the wine glass towards the nose, stopping when you smell the wine so that you can assess its intensity.
At this point of the wine tasting experience, you can finally appreciate the wine smell: first hold the wine glass steady and then repeat the gesture after shaking it.
Remember well, however, to inhale slowly but only for a couple of seconds and to take rest breaks between one inspiration and another.
Not too long ago, I was a wine beginner and believe me if I tell you not to be frightened if the first few times you will not be able to identify any wine tasting descriptor.
You will surely feel a thousand nuances that remind you of something, but that you just can’t identify. Don’t worry, it’s normal.
The advice I give you about wine tasting is to be accompanied in your first wine tasting experiences by an Expert, who will describe the product with an aromatic, floral or balsamic profile, with Boisè notes (wood notes, most likely the wine will have undergone ageing) or spicy notes. You will realise that you feel the same perfumes, defects or wine aromas that you could not describe.
The identification of the wine descriptors is not an exclusive gift of some people but it requires training in wine tasting. By training with other people and experts to recognise perfumes, you will also become a good wine taster.
I recommend the wine experiences where you can taste wines from different vintages, thus gain some experience and then be able to continue on your own.
What does wine taste like? As you have previously read in this guide to wine, one of the senses that is used to taste wines is touch, and it happens at this stage. The tongue will in fact examine the consistency of wine, by academics called BODY.
Tasting wine also involves determining:
- alcohol content
- presence of sugars
How to taste wine then? Start to taste wine by taking a moderate quantity of wine in your mouth and try to bring the wine into contact with not only the tongue but the entire mouth.
Then by simulating a chew and slightly tilting the head you can slide the wine on the cheeks, inside the upper lip and in every area of the oral cavity.
These wine tasting tips will allow you to taste wine by fully capturing every nuance: sweet, acid and savoury will come first, then bitter and astringency sensation given by tannin.
You will perceive alcohol in the form of heat, especially during the first part of your wine tasting experience.
I will now describe how to taste wine to obtain retro-olfactory sensations, a technique by professional wine tasters that with a little practice you can use with friends.
You need to take a small amount of wine and slightly open your mouth to allow the air to enter, forming small bubbles of wine on the tongue.
This will cause the evaporation of volatile substances that will reach the olfactory mucosa where the sensations will be perceived via the post-nasal route.
Finally, you must swallow the sip of wine and exhale from the nose all the air previously inspired by the half-closed mouth.
This wine tasting technique will allow you to amplify all the gustatory and olfactory sensations while tasting wine and thus you will be able to determine the intensity, quality, evolutionary state and aromatic persistence.
Now you know how to taste wine!
Did you like the article to learn how to taste wine by the Sommelier Nur Migahed, graduating in Food and Wine Sciences and Cultures at the Roma Tre University, for Italia Delight? Now you are ready to book your wine tasting directly with the producers!