How to Wine Taste Video Tutorial
The fun part first; but to be frank, the most important.
We encourage you to view the video below to find out how you should be tasting your wines.
Ordinarily, we mainly drink wine, rather than taste it! Tasting is about stopping, taking your time over a glass, observing, recalling, and obtaining knowledge. Like a voyage of discovery. Once you have learnt how to dissect the components of wine, you can use the process to test yourself and your growing knowledge and ultimately enjoy wine more!
Until you know how to ‘taste’ and can focus on the three main steps to follow, your wine journey cannot begin. The best advice given to me was ‘taste, taste, taste!’.What are you complaining about I hear you say? I’m not, I assure you; I just want to share with you the importance now so you don’t waste any time, so you can enjoy not only wine itself, but also learning about wine. Because to taste wine brings your subject alive, into reality, and as my father always told me….’You can’t learn everything about life from a book!’.
This video and information may be more in depth than you need, as it gives you guidance on how to wine taste properly, as if you were attending a wine tasting event, hosting one with friends or having a serious moment! But if you take in what I’m saying, you will have that knowledge banked in your memory for the appropriate occasion and just loosely follow the three step rule at all other times! Even if you only take just a minute to think about the wine you are about to taste rather than just knocking it back, it will make all the difference I promise!
So watch the wine tasting video on this page, or you can carry on reading as I’ve written it down for those of you who prefer it in this format.
Wine tasting is a three step process: Looking, Smelling, then Tasting. In wine terms that’s appearance, nose and palate.
Three Golden Steps of Wine Tasting
- Looking: Clarity, Intensity and Colour
- Smelling: Condition, Intensity and Aroma
- Tasting: Sweetness, Acidity, Tannins, Alcohol, Body, Flavour, Length
Take a very clean glass (well dried) and preferably tulip shaped with a round bowl. Hold the glass by its base and tilt a half full (or less is best), away from you against a white background such as a white tablecloth or a piece of card or paper. To observe a wine properly you should do so in natural light if you can.
The graduation of colour from core to rim, is a sign of ageing. See below for colour references with age. It is also good to know that the older the wine, the wider the rim will be.
All good wines should be clear i.e. if a wine is dull or cloudy, it is out of condition.
Out of condition wines can be due to bad storage, air has penetrated through the cork, or it is too old.
Judge the wine’s intensity and it’s colour.
- Red: Purple, Orange, Brown
- White: Lemon, Gold, Amber
- Rose: Bright pink/purple, Orange, Brown
When noting the appearance of the wine, swirl it around your glass (please practice this first or you could be spilling it everywhere!). Some wines may appear to ‘stick’ to the glass and run down the side of the glass. These are known as tears, or legs. I prefer calling them legs, as how can anything sad be related to a glass of wine?
Legs have so many myths attached to them – some people used to say that the legs denoted quality; others said the amount of legs portrayed the percentage of alcohol of the wine? Well it is in fact an indication of the evaporation rate of the alcohol in the wine and purely should be noted as to whether they exist or not. Sorry to shatter any illusions!
You can judge a wine primarily by smelling it- it’s the most important part of wine tasting and gives you the most information.
Its strange; when you first start to learn to ‘taste’ wine you start smelling everything?! From cooking ingredients to even the car…you become much more aware if your sense of smell, as though it has awoken from a subconscious sleep! Try it if you don’t believe me! It can only be good, as your brain works on memory and every wine you smell will evoke a memory- so be sure to note these down! Not only are you trying to gauge the correct components of the wine, it is also your own interpretation that matters. Your tasting notes are only for your own recollection so this can truly help when recalling wines you have sampled. No-one is testing you I promise.
The term ‘nose’ is used instead of smelling in correct wine terminolgy. ‘Bouquet’ was once used, but nose is the most widely accepted e.g. ‘detecting blackberries on the nose’ quite simply means you can smell blackberries!
Wine terminology has had severe criticism from beginners in the past, but I assure you that once you have learnt the basics you will use the language and descriptions quite naturally and also find it makes more sense! Well, most of it! But you can use any words to describe the wine as it’s only for your own knowledge and memory bank.
As I said previously, I believe the nose of a wine can tell you more than any of the other senses. Sometimes, in a restaurant, when you have to taste the wine it is only necessary to smell a wine to know it is clean, of good quality and you like it! There is no need to taste it just because they offer. Try it, and watch the Sommeliers face?!
Condition – Clean or unclean?
To smell a wine successfully, you will need to swirl the wine around the glass liberally, three or four times. This allows the oxygen to come into contact with the wine and liberate the odours into the air. Place your nose within the glass and inhale. Aromas can fade rapidly and your nose can also recover quickly, so feel free to have as many goes as you like.
At this stage, bad wines can be detected and disgarded.
Out of condition wines
- Cork taint: the most common fault which affects 5 % of wines. Smells musty and damp. It has nothing to do with bits of cork in your glass……the smell is the indicator and it is due to a bad cork.
- Oxidised wines: these have a cooked or caramel smell. Also you can see this visually as dull brown. Oxygen has penetrated into the wine somehow and turned it bad.
- High Sulphur dioxide and bacterial: these smells, often found in cheaper white wines, should be avoided. They are from too many chemicals being used and left in the wine used to preserve them. Aromas of rotten eggs, nail polish remover and burnt matches are tell tale signs.
- Vinegar / volatile acidity: these wines have definitely passed over from the wine stage and detects the presence of acetic bacteria and oxygen together.
- Intensity: usually a higher quality wine has a more intense nose once matured to its optimum.
The character of a wine can be described in many ways with a vast array of scents detected. Again, let this be a personal experience and there is no right or wrong. You will in time, develop your technique and will be able to detect the familiar aromas of particular grapes/wines. Listen to others, consult tasting guides for useful terminology and remember to smell, smell and smell again!
Categories of aroma characteristics:
- Fruit e.g. tropical, citrus, black fruit
- Floral e.g. roses, elderflower
- Spice e.g. vanilla, pepper
- Vegetal e.g. oak, fresh asparagus, coffee
Plus many other extraordinary ones like leather, burnt matches and treacle?!
Tasting …the final frontier of embarrassment for many; however once you realize that everyone else is pulling a funny face and concentrating, you’ll soon lose your inhibitions! Draw in air when you take the wine in your mouth (like a surprised expression!), as this opens up the wine with the air contact, to taste more specifically.
Tasting is a simplified version of smelling where specific areas of the tongue can detect particular characteristics. This is the reason that swirling the wine around your mouth is so vital, as it allows every area of the tongue to be coated.
Gargling the wine also allows you to get the aromatic taste via your retronasal passage (this connects your mouth to your nose). Flavours are actually aromas that vaporize in your mouth, interpreted via the retronasal passage. Drawing in the air assists this process of vaporization.
Assess each of the following when tasting the wine:
A tingling feeling on the sides of your mouth can make your mouth water if dominant (mainly white). Don’t worry, the acid is from the fruit and in high acid white wines it is described as ‘crisp’. Cold climates give higher acidity.
This comes from grape skins and is what makes strong tea taste bitter – a ‘drying’ sensation, detected on the gums.
There are higher tannins in Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah as they have thicker skins, and also mainly grown in hotter climates.
Used to describe the feeling in your mouth. It is a richness e.g. Beaujolais is light in body, Cabernet Sauvignon is full bodied.
Detected at the tip of the tongue and indicates the amount of sugar in the wine. Almost all reds and most whites are however ‘dry’
Also called ‘finish’. This aftertaste will linger in the mouth after tasting (therefore it is important to spit out as you absorb more wine than you realise!). A long, complex finish indicates a quality wine.
This is part of the body of the wine; an essential ingredient. However, the amount of alcohol must be balanced harmoniously with the other flavours i.e. a wine that gives a warming sensation at the back of your mouth is high in alcohol and this does not balance with the fruit content if the feeling is too hot.
When drawing a conclusion, even though you may dislike a wine, do ensure that your comments are impersonal i.e. is it a good, excellent or poor example of its type. When choosing a wine for your own pleasure, this is an entirely different situation! Pay what you want, drink what you like and also experiment! Get together and wine taste with friends and combine a social event with learning. Remember, everyone’s tastes are different, and with so many varieties of wine out there to choose from this is what makes the world of wine so fascinating!