How to Taste Wine
There is a lot of confusion over the idea of tasting wine. Some have created an elaborate ceremony complete with an obscure language around wine tasting, and we think that is too bad.
Tasting wine is simply drinking wine while paying attention at the same time.
If you’re learning how to drink wine, take a look at our wine styles. We’ve divided the different red and white wines you’ll encounter into four different styles each. Learn your favorite style with our wine tastings, and then find other wines you like in our wine reviews section.
The Five Ss of Wine Tasting
The next five sections roughly correspond to the five S’s of wine tasting: sight, swirl, sniff, sip, and savor. (Wine geeks would say spit instead of savor, but we’re not trying that many wines!)
Wine Tasting S Number 1: Sight
Sight refers to looking at the color and clarity of the wine, which can tell you a lot about a wine. For example, the darker the wine, the more body it will typically have. To assess the color of the wine, tip the glass slightly, and look at the color against a white background. Notice how the color changes near the edge of the glass.
Wine Tasting S Number 2: Swirl
Then swirl the wine in the glass. Practice this, because it’s important to wine geeks. It’s a good way to make people think you know more about wine than you do. The point, however, is to get aroma molecules heading out of the glass, so you can smell them. Give the glass a good swirl, and then smell it quickly.
Wine Tasting S Number 3: Sniff
When you sniff the wine, you may notice lots of individual smells such as fruit, smoke, or vanilla (or you may not). If you can’t figure out what you smell, you might take a look at our chart of aromas in wine. Aroma charts have many of the common wine smells grouped into the most common combinations found in wine. Seeing the words may give you the hint you need to figure out what it is that you smell.
Wine Tasting S Number 4: Sip
Now, sip the wine. Of course, now you are actually tasting the wine, and we want to try and describe the various tastes that we find. First we decide, “Is the wine sweet or dry”? Which means do you taste residual sugar or not. (Most wines that Americans drink are dry.)
Next, taste for the acid in the wine. You feel, more than taste, the acid in wine on your tongue, and it can make your mouth water. Don’t confuse acid or the idea of “dry” with the pucker sensation in some red wines, which are caused by tannins.
Tannins are an important part of the flavor profile for red wines. You cannot taste tannins, but you can feel them. Swirling red wine in your mouth is an excellent way to “feel” the tannin in your mouth.
If you are having trouble putting your tastes into words, you might refer to the aroma chart again. Frequently, the aromas are flavors as well.
Wine Tasting S Number 5: Savor
The last act of “tasting” a wine is savoring it. Contemplate the aromas, tastes, and the way the wine feels in your mouth. You are looking for the overall experience the wine has to offer.
Did you like the wine? What did you like about it? What did you not like about the wine? Would you buy the wine again? These are the kind of questions that you should try to answer to get your overall impression of the wine.