There is a time honored tradition to follow when it comes to wine tasting and there are a series of steps to follow if you are serious about understanding the aromas and tastes that are associated with the myriad of wines that are just waiting for you to try. It is a complex process with many facets however if you are just starting out with wine tasting, you can break the process down into several steps that will ensure your path from wine tasting for beginners to that of a more advanced taster, occurs reasonable quickly.
Step 1 – Look at the Wine
You should take note of the color of the wine as it sits in the glass, preferably against a white background. A white tablecloth or napkin is ideal for this. Be sure to check the color at the edge of the glass and then tilt it gently to see if the color changes between the edge and the center of the glass. You should look for the clarity of the color as well as saturation or depth, and intensity while noting that the depth and intensity of the color do not necessarily equate with quality.
Step 2 – Smell the Wine
After you have had a good look at the wine, bring the glass to within a few inches of your nose and breathe in while identifying the main scent. Then place your nose closer into the glass and inhale again. Aside from checking for any odors that could indicate a spoiled wine (aka corked), you should try to identify the predominant scent. It could be fruity, cheesy, spicy, woody, flowery or any of the other countless scents that can be present in a particular wine. Be aware of any alcohol smell too and if any are present, it should not be overpowering.
Step 3 – Let the Wine Breath
This step involves swirling the wine around in the glass because this will expose it to air. The air can act to bring out even more scents in the wine because the act of swirling wine and allowing it to spread over the interior of the glass increases the wine’s surface area. Aromas in the wine will open up as the wine becomes exposed to the oxygen. It is also worth noting how the wine runs back down into the glass as you swirl it around. It will run quickly or perhaps slowly and is known as viscosity. A viscous wine may be more full bodied.
Step 4 – Taste!
Finally you get to taste the wine, having already noted some information about it from the previous steps. Simply take some wine into your mouth along with some air and allow it move over your tongue as well as all around the inside of your mouth. Take note of its texture, body and weight as well as any features such as smoothness or tartness. While savoring the tastes you should also ascertain if they align with the aromas you smelled a little earlier.
Step 5 – Swallow the Wine?
This last step involves either swallowing the wine in your mouth or spitting it a spittoon provided for the purpose. It is a personal choice but obviously if you are driving, the spittoon option is the one to take. The other thing to consider is that swallowing many samples will result in you becoming tipsy and perhaps not as discerning during the tasting process as you were when you started out. Either way, the experience should be fun and you can drink water between wines to cleanse your palette.
These steps will guide through the wine tasting for beginners stage of your journey to being a more experienced wine taster. There are additional steps to consider once you are ready to move past the learning stage however that is a topic for another time. Learning about the varieties of aromas and tastes of wines should be an experience to enjoy and a little knowledge of the process should ensure this is indeed so.