Wine Tasting Club – Wine Tasting 101

By / Wine + Drinks / February 5th, 2009 / 1

Pretensions aside, there are some really good reasons why you should learn to sniff, swirl, chew and spit like the pros. Okay, maybe not the chew and spit part. Lingering over the look, bouquet and taste of that wine in your glass leads you to appreciate the terroir (the total natural environment), character of the grapes and the efforts of the winemaker.

First, a few pointers:

Make sure not to overfill the glass. Usually one or two ounces are all it takes to reveal the wine’s attributes. Remember, a little wine goes a long way. Once you’ve poured the wine, hold the glass by the stem rather than around the bowl. This trick gives you a clear look at the wine, and stops the heat of hand from warming it.

How to taste: 

The look:

Look down into your glass of wine. You should be able to see how clear it is and its depth of colour. Ideally, both red and white wines should appear clear. Any haze or cloudiness could just be natural sediment. Letting the bottle sit upright for a while will allow the sediment to sink to the bottom. But, lack of clarity could also be the result of contamination.

The swirl:

Hold the glass firmly by its stem or base and twirl it around. If you’re a first-time “swirler”, put the glass on the table, hold it by the stem and twirl. If you followed my advice and only poured a bit of wine into your glass, spilling it shouldn’t be an issue. The point of swirling is to aerate the wine so that it releases its aromas.

The nose:

Once you’ve aerated the wine, you’re ready to sniff. Put your nose down into the glass and see if you can pick out some recognizable scents. Blackberry, green pepper, petrol … chemical compounds in grapes, about 500 of them, release their unique aromas during winemaking. It’s not that flavouring has been added to the wine, rather that the compounds in the grapes are the same as those in fruits, vegetables and other natural substances.

The taste:

Take a sip of your wine and hold it in your mouth for a bit, rolling it around on your tongue. Savour the flavours and how it feels in your mouth. You should taste some of the qualities that you first smelled in the wine. Here is where your tastebuds are put to work. The tip of your tongue is sensitive to sweet, the sides to sharpness and the back to bitterness. If you make sure that your mouthful of wine reaches all of those areas on your tongue, you should get a pretty good idea of the wine’s overall complexity.    

Next month: Hosting a Wine Tasting Party



Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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