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Wine Education

How to Taste Wine

The 5-step process of tasting wine is a helpful tool for understanding your favorite wines. This process of tasting wine allows you to enjoy each aspect of the wine tasting experience.

You can taste wine like a pro by following these five steps:

  1. Sight
  2. Smell
  3. Taste
  4. Touch
  5. Overall Impression

1 Sight:

It is always good to make sure the wine is 'clear'. A little cork is harmless, but you'll want to check for sediments or a presence of particles.

Pick up the glass by the stem to give yourself a clear view of the wine. Hold the glass up to white light, or against a white background such as a tablecloth or napkin.

Note the color and clarity of the wine. White wines may range from pale yellow to amber gold. Red wines can be inky purple, brick red, or many shades in between. Intensity of color is sometimes a signal of a wine with a heavier body.

2. Smell:

Exploring the aromas of wine is an important step to enjoying the full tasting experience of the wine. Our sense of smell is more fine-tuned than our sense of taste, so many of the complex "flavors" in wine are actually better observed through smell rather than taste.

Move your glass in small circles to swirl the wine and release the aromas. You can either swirl with the glass in the air, or keep the base of the glass on the table as you swirl to help avoid spilling. After several seconds of swirling, hold the glass up to your nose and inhale.

Common aromas you may notice are floral, citrus, and tropical fruit for white wines, or berry, dried fruit, and spice for red wines. Use the Wine Aroma Wheel to help you evaluate the aromas of the wine. Start at the center of the wheel to identify the type of aroma you notice, and then move straight outward to identify the aroma more precisely.

3. Taste:

The human tongue can only taste five primary flavors: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savory. However, by slurping in a small amount of air along with the wine, we can use our sense of smell again to help us "taste" more flavors.

Take a sip of the wine, and swirl it your mouth for a moment. While the wine is still in your mouth, inhale air slowly through your mouth, as if you were drinking from a straw.

Describe the flavors you taste. You may notice some of the same fruit, floral or spice flavors that you noticed while smelling the wine. You may also notice some of the five tastes, such as sweetness on the tip of your tongue, sour from the acidity of the wine, or slight bitterness from the tannins.

4. Touch:

The "weight" or "body" of a wine can be described as light, medium, or full. Whites such as Pinot Grigio are considered light-bodied, while reds such as Cabernet are usually medium to full-bodied.

Take a sip of wine and focus on how it feels in your mouth. For example, Pinot Grigio will likely feel very light, while Chardonnay will often have a somewhat "rounder" mouthfeel due to its fuller body.

Note the lingering impression that remains in your mouth after you swallow the wine. This is called the "finish," and can either be fairly short or quite long.

5. Overall Impression:

Simple - Did you enjoy the wine?

Mentally combine your impressions of the wine's appearance, aromas, taste, body, and finish.

Evaluate the harmony among the various aspects of the wine. An outstanding wine will have balance among all these elements, and each aspect of the wine will be well-integrated.

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