Wine Tasting Guide – Learn to Look, Smell, and Taste Wine

Wine Tasting Guide - Learn to Look, Smell, and Taste Wine

Wine Tasting Guide - Learn to Look, Smell, and Taste Wine

Wine tasting is a true art form that just about anyone can easily learn, as long as they have the proper wine tasting guide to accompany an in-home experience, or to set you up for official wine tasting in a winery. 

The art of wine tasting can be done by men and women who don’t particularly LOVE wine but want to experience learning about wine before diving in full force. Often though, wine tasting is reserved for the true lovers of the fruit of the vine, and second only to the perfect cheese or chocolate pairing to go with it. 

Luckily, to learn wine tasting techniques doesn’t take a whole lot of work. Anyone can learn how to properly taste wine with four simple steps, a little practice, and a lot of open-minded fun. This article will show and tell you just how to taste wine and give wine tasting tips that will help you look like an absolute professional the next wine tasting party or wine tasting trip you go on. Follow along and learn all about the true art form of wine tasting!

The Four Basic Steps of Wine Tasting

Wine tasting is comprised of four easy and fairly basic steps: look, smell, taste, decide or conclude. That’s it! These four steps have been used over and over again with the highest wine tasting professionals, sommeliers, who have incredibly sensitive and refined palates. The good news is, you don’t have to be a sommelier to taste wine like a pro, you just need these four steps. 

What you will need: wine, a wine glass, you, and your exceptionally positive attitude!

Look: In order to understand your wine, you will need to gaze longingly and lovingly into the glass, preferably under a neutral or natural light, and inspect the wine. What color is it? Is the color deep or light? Does the wine have legs? Sediment? 

Smell: Smell often dictates taste, so stick your nose inside that glass and breathe in. The aroma will come across in different variations and can be layered. We will give you some common descriptive words regarding the smell of wine and how to relay the notes and hints below. 

Taste: The wine drinker’s favorite part! Tasting the wine will help you understand what kind of structure and flavors are inside the wine. Many techniques offer retronasal olfaction or breathing in through the back of the nose through taste, to optimize the flavor and allow the drinker to easily identify the flavor of the wine, 

Decide/Conclude: Put on your thinking cap, because now is the time to decide what the entire profile of the wine is, what you liked about it, or what you didn’t like about it. 

How to Taste Wine Like a Professional

Using four indicated steps above, you should be able to easily understand and perform wine tasting without looking like a complete beginner (which is also fine). Here we will dive a little deeper into the four categories mentioned above, and give you insight into how and why these four characteristics work, what you can look for when tasting wine, and language you can use to wow your audience. 

How to taste wine like a professional

1. Look


Some words that are used to visually describe wine include the following:

    • Color
    • Legs (wine legs)
    • Viscosity 
    • Opacity
    • Traces of sediment

The portion of looking at a wine and describing what you see is a very, very short portion of the wine tasting process. If you are at a winery, likely this will be described to you, and you will be able to see for yourself what the wine looks like. Does it have legs? Is it a deep red or pink-tinged sparkling wine? Unless you are blindfolded, this is one of the easiest steps in the process. 

2. Smell


The smell of wine is more involved than the visual aspect of wine tasting. When you swirl and smell a wine, you will note the following descriptive words or characteristics:

    • Fruity. 
    • Floral
    • Earthy
    • Oaky
    • Sweet
    • Citrus
    • Herb
    • Full-bodied

The smelling portion of wine tasting is segmented and classified under three main categories: primary aroma, secondary aroma, and tertiary aroma. The three are vastly different, yet very important! 

Primary Aroma is driven by tones and smells of grape, fruit, floral, and herbs. 

Secondary Aroma has to do with how the wine was processed. Is the wine oakey because it was stored in a barrel? Is the wine yeasty from the way most white wine is processed? Are there other notes of almond, peanut, or cheese? This is all in the wine and how it is prepared. 

Tertiary Aroma   Is the wine aged? Stored in oak or a bottle? These are very smooth and savory tastes that are layered into the wine. Some descriptive words include tobacco, leather, leaves, sweet vanilla, and sometimes even coconut. 

3. Taste


This is a big one! Tasting the wine brings the entire process full circle. When you taste the wine, you can sift the wine through your teeth, as if you are slurping soup, swish the wine around your mouth, and either swallow the wine or spit it out.Here are some terms you should know to be a wine connoisseur: 

Crisp: This is a descriptive word for the acidity of a wine. 

Dry: The opposite of sweet, a dry wine will leave your mouth wanting a sip of water afterward and normally is red or dry Champagne. 

Finish: How does the wine taste on the tip of your tongue? What tastes come out at the end? Even after swallowing a wine, a good wine will linger on your tongue and in your mouth. 

Tannic: Similar to dry, a tannic wine will leave your mouth dry and in need of water, or the sensation of needing water!

Salty, sour, sweet, bitter: These four categories embody our sense of taste. Wine will take one or more of these characteristics when you taste it. 

Length: Does the wine have a story to it? As in, a beginning, middle, and end? How long does the wine take to finish? 

4. Decide/Conclude


Now you get to describe the entire wine! Was the wine full? What were the flavors? Does the wine have balance or is it unbalanced? Is the wine memorable? Would you drink this particular wine again?

We hope this has been a helpful guide to help you taste wine. Consider this your official wine tasting model and read through some of our other blogs and articles to learn about Castello Del Poggio’s wine lists and where you can go to taste some of your own! Happy tasting! 

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