Becoming a confident wine taster requires some practice. I know, that's the fun part right? Or is it? For some people, wine tasting feels intimidating. The rich history of wine terminology and the fancy airs put on by members of the wine press make the simple act of tasting wine feel like you are sitting for the bar exam.
We want you to enjoy wine tasting. That's why we put together a few simple things to keep in mind before you are standing or sitting in front of your next glass of wine.
Here is our list of tips for confident wine tasting
1. Keep an open mind
Wine tasting gives us the chance to sample many different wines while interacting with people that have an intimate understanding of what you are tasting. It will make the experience even more enjoyable if you approach it with the right attitude.
- When wine tasting, avoid making sweeping claims about disliking reds or whites; it’s a bit amateurish and you’ll never know what you’re missing out on.
- Think about the qualities that you like in wine, other beverages, and food. If you have a sweet tooth you might already gravitate toward Muscat, Chenin blanc, and Riesling. But many merlots, syrahs, and California pinot noirs are fruit-forward and your palate will perceive those strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry notes as sweet.
- Don’t go wine tasting just to reaffirm your likes -- this is the opportunity to evolve your palate. And if you get a taste of a wine you simply can’t stand, the dump bucket awaits!
2. Remember basic tasting mechanics
When you are at a tasting room with a glass of wine before you, remember how to technically taste wine:
- Look at the wine; evaluate for color and clarity. (See the visual wine tasting guide below)
- Smell the wine and decide whether swirling your glass will release more aromatics. Begin swirling to open up tight wines that have just been poured.
- Taste the wine, letting the liquid roll across your palate and sipping in a little air if you’re comfortable.
- Then Let the fun begin. What flavors stand out to you? Is it sweet or dry? The best part about wine tasting is deciding what it means to you. Perhaps you identify minerality and ripe, red fruit. Or maybe instead of tasting words, the wine triggers a memory of standing in the rain as a child or eating berries off the vine.
You’ll walk away from your wine tasting far more satisfied if you take the time to think about and discuss what you’ve tasted, even if you hated it in the end.
3. Don’t rinse between tastes
It may seem instinctive to pour yourself a little water between each wine tasting and rinse your glass, but in actuality, there is no need. Every tasting room will order the wines from light in body and alcohol, to heavy and strong. If you don’t want to finish your taste it is perfectly appropriate to pour the remainder in the dump bucket.
4. Have a few questions at your disposal
Don’t be afraid to ask what may seem like basic questions. Why is Pinot Noir light-bodied and Cab Sauv full-bodied, for example. To an expert, discussing the fundamentals of winemaking can lead to a much more enjoyable conversation than an esoteric question somebody asks to sound sophisticated.
Also, getting into site specifics will make the wine tasting more memorable: consider asking about why the growing area is unique or what new or traditional methods the winemaker is undertaking.
5. Ask to revisit favorites
It’s perfectly appropriate, after completing a wine tasting, to ask if you can “revisit” one of the options. If you are considering buying a bottle, it’s a good idea to go back and see if your perception of the wine has changed.
This is a good time to ask more questions about how many cases were produced and how many are remaining (if it’s something you love, more than one bottle is a good idea).
Also, you can jot down the features you like in the wine -- grassy, mineral, acidic -- and use those descriptors to guide future selections.