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The 5 Steps of Wine Tasting for Beginners

by Administrator5. January 2017 12:15

The joy of a proper wine tasting is a multi-sensory experience that simply stands above the experiences offered by any other beverage.

While the art of wine tasting is often perceived as being inaccessible to anyone less than the most prestigious connoisseur, it’s actually a process that is easy to enjoy once you understand what the steps that are involved and the qualities you are looking for in your wine. The more you learn about wine and the tasting process, the more rewarding the experience will be.

Whether you’ve experienced a proper tasting before, or just considering the idea for the first time, here are the five steps of a proper tasting.

Set the Scene

Speak with anyone who has ever experienced a proper tasting and they will assure you that your setting plays a significant role in the process. Why? Aside from providing a more enjoyable atmosphere in general, your choice of setting will make all the difference when it comes to your ability to focus on the individual qualities of each wine. Your choice of table cloth, which is preferably white, as well as your choice of wine glasses, which should be large enough for you to swirl a few ounces, are other important considerations for creating the optimal experience.

It’s also important to taste your wine “blind” or, in other words, you want to ensure that the label of each bottle is well hidden. One way of doing this is by uncorking the bottle, rolling the bottle in foil, and marking each bottle in some way to ensure that the right wines are poured during each round of the tasting. The reason for doing so should be rather obvious – this step ensures that you are evaluating each wine on its own inherent qualities and not letting your opinion be swayed by any outside qualities such as its label.

And, of course, do not overlook the small details. You will want to have bread, crackers, or even some cheeses available to ensure a clean palate between each wine. You will also need to consider a small cup up to a larger bucket in order for you to empty your glass throughout the tasting.

Conduct Your Wine Tasting

Once you’ve perfected the atmosphere, it’s time to uncork your first wine and fill your glass a quarter full.

Step #1: Evaluate the wine’s appearance. Is it a light, pale color or is it a deep, vivid hue? Is it clear and transparent or cloudy and dull? Examining the color of the wine against a white background, such as a white table cloth, will help you evaluate its full appearance.

Tilt the glass away from you. Tilting your glass will reveal finer subtleties that are not apparent from just the wine’s color alone. Notice the wine’s movement. Does it drip down the side of the glass or does it move like sheets? Does the color change as your eyes follow it from the rim of the glass to its center? While there are many characteristics you can discern from just the appearance of a wine, including its age and flavor, all of these basic qualities discussed here are more than enough to enjoy a simple tasting.

Step #2: Swirl your wine. After you’ve made mental notes about its appearance, it’s time to swirl the wine in your glass. How you exactly swirl your wine, however, it entirely up to you. Some people choose to hold the base of their glass securely against the surface of the table and make a few circles while others like to become extremely showy. While we personally recommend a few modest swirls, the point is to agitate the wine enough so that oxygen is introduced into it. Oxygenating your wine, while not something you would want to do overnight, helps “open up” the wine allowing for its most noteworthy characteristics to come through later on.

Step #3: Evaluate the wine’s aroma. Sniff the wine in your glass. Although our tongues are only able to detect four primary flavors (sour, salty, sweet, and bitter), our sense of smell can detect thousands of different aromas. What do you note? Take a minute to contemplate the complexities of its aroma. In a lot of ways, you’re preparing your brain for the tasting step and so this step is necessary for maximizing your experience.

Step #4: Evaluate the wine’s taste. “Wine tasting” is no misnomer. The act of actually tasting the wine is undoubtedly the highlight of the experience but, when it comes to a proper wine tasting, keep in mind that the joy is in wine tasting, not drinking.

Start by sipping the wine and letting it linger in your mouth. After that, begin rolling the wine around your mouth in order to fully expose the wine to your taste buds.

What are the flavors that stand out? Are there any subtle, less noticeable flavors? Do the flavors reflect its initial aroma? As you think about or discuss these considerations, also note the tactical qualities of the wine, such as its weight or body. And – perhaps the most important thing to note – do you enjoy it?

Step #5: Savor the wine’s taste. Aside from an initial sip, it’s very common for tasters to also modestly slurp the wine. Just like sniffing your wine, fully exposing your senses to your drink will reveal additional qualities as your sensors become more acclimated to what it is experiencing. This is also the time to note the wine’s finish.

After you have thoroughly evaluated the taste of your wine, you have one more decision to make: Spit or swallow. As we previously recommended, having a spittoon, or a small bucket where you can drain the remaining wine in your glass, is ideal. Overexposure to any particular wine may make it harder to accurately evaluate each sequential drink in your tasting; however, the ultimate decision to spit or swallow is entirely up to you.

Discover More Wines to Love

Wine tasting is both complex and deceptively simple. When in doubt, remember the five basic steps: See, swirl, smell, sip, and savor. Whether you’ve experienced one tasting or one hundred, these steps will help you discover something new to appreciate about each wine you taste. In fact, we recommend that you keep a journal about your tastings which will not only help you discover the wine that is ideal for you but will also remind you of some of your favorite experiences.

We hope that you continue to find wines that you love and, when you join us for any of our weekly wine tastings, we know you will. We would be thrilled to have you join us at Gourmet Baskets / Wine World each Friday between 5:30 and 7:00 P.M. There is no better opportunity in Anderson Township or the surrounding Greater Cincinnati area to experience the full wonder of a true tasting. Thank you for reading and we look forward to you joining us soon!

2 Glasses of Red Wine


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