How do I learn to taste wine?

Updated: Sep 6, 2018


Tasting wine is like any other skill. It takes practice, practice, and more practice. It also takes patience and the ability to allow yourself to give your full attention to every detail of the wine. We started wine tasting in 2004 and to this day we are still learning! It is a skill that you will continue to develop throughout your life as you encounter new wines and your nose and palate develop and change. But don't be hesitant to try; there are many attributes of wine that even a novice can notice and appreciate. There are three main qualities that you will want to pay attention to when tasting wine; the color of the wine, the “nose” or smell of the wine, and the “palate” or taste and feel of the wine.

Color: swirl your glass a bit, hold it over a white background or piece of paper, and try to describe the color of the wine. Think of things that remind you of the color, a flower maybe or a certain crayon color. Notice if the color is light or dark, translucent or opaque, richly hued or watered down.

Nose: swirl your glass again and put your nose to the rim so that you can appreciate the smell of the wine. Again, notice what you smell and describe it without over thinking it. With each sniff, say out loud what it is you smell. There are no wrong answers!! What pops into your mind might range from wet earth to flowers, fruit, wood, tobacco or even freshly cut grass. This might sound foreign but as you practice smelling wine you will begin to notice and identify more and more smells.

Palate: swirl your glass yet again and take a small sip of the wine, swishing it around your mouth a bit to allow it to reach all parts of your mouth and tongue. Do not let this first sip be what you judge. Take another small sip and let it bathe your mouth and tongue with its flavor before you spit or swallow it. What did you taste? Is it tart or sweet? Does it dry out your tongue? Does it remind you of any foods you have eaten? Is there a smell that you now distinctly notice as a taste? Again, don't be shy, just say out loud what you taste. You might be surprised by

what you notice about the wine!

Finally, when it comes to wine tasting it really does take practice, but there are many opportunities to improve your wine tasting skills in every day life. When you cook a meal or go out to eat, pay more attention to the individual smells and tastes of the foods you encounter. Really think about what a stalk of asparagus smells and tastes like. Pay attention to the way your mouth waters when you eat an orange. Notice how pleasing it is to have a small piece of chocolate melt on your tongue. Try to name any or all of the spices you taste in a slice of banana bread. All of these experiences will enhance your ability to identify and describe wines.


Stay tuned for future posts expanding on the topic of how to taste wine.

But for now, go enjoy a glass of wine keeping in mind what you see, smell, taste and feel.

And remember, there are no wrong answers!!