How to Taste Wine

Wine is a royal drink. Though it is made to drink and enjoy, it’s not a good idea to drink it just like that. Wine has to be judged and assessed before drinking. If we want to get most out of wine drinking, mastering the art of wine tasting is very important.

Wine tasting is the sensory test and evaluation of wine. It has to be felt in the mind, in our senses and then in our mouth. The appearance, the aroma and then the taste has to be felt and experienced step by step; and only then we would be tasting wine in the true sense. Wine has to be tasted in an altogether different way and one who knows how to do it correctly is able to enjoy it truly. Appreciation for the winemaker and for the wine follows once we know how to taste wine correctly. Wine tasting covers three main aspects of wine – look, smell and taste.


The colour and look of the wine should determine the purity and quality of the wine. A simple procedure should be followed to check the appearance of the wine correctly. A ¾ glass of wine should be observed by holding the glass against light. Sunlight or a bright light in the room will help us judge the wine better. The wine glass is then slightly tilted and the colour of the wine is observed against the light.

For red wines, the colour shades can ranges from purple, maroon, garnet, ruby red, brick red to even brown. The shades of white wines could be clear and colourless, clear with a yellowish tinge, darker yellow like straw, lighter green, amber, golden or brown.

After observing the colour of the wine, we should also check other characteristics of the wine -- whether it is watery or dark, translucent or opaque, dull or brilliant, cloudy or clear. The wine should look clear and shining. It's considered flawed if it appears cloudy or has fuzziness in it. The wine should also be checked for any sediment, bits of the cork or other floaters in it.


The wine glasses are designed to optimise the aroma of wines. Swirling the glass is the key to getting the right aroma of the wine. Smelling the wine is the second step in wine tasting and triggers our inner senses and tells us the quality of the wine.

The glass of wine should be swirled for about 12 seconds and immediately brought closer to our nose to smell aroma of the wine that rises due to swirling. The swirling helps the alcohol in the wine evaporate slightly, and release the true natural smell of the wine. Once we have smelled the initial aroma, we put our nose in the glass to capture the aromatics in a greater way. The aromas that could smell like orange, rose, clove, peach or vanilla tell us that the wine is pure and indicates the characteristics of the wine.

After taking the aromas, the wine glass could be swirled again and the transparent film of liquid falling down along the inside surface of the glass should be allowed to settle. This film, commonly called as wine legs or tears of wine, lets out a different aroma. Now, we can sniff the wine again to smell the mix and mingle of different aromas.


Once our senses are tantalized with the look and smell of the wine we are going to drink, it is time for the most exotic phase of wine tasting. We have to begin with sipping the wine and then rolling it in the mouth to feel its initial taste. The tasting is divided into three phases or experiences as a matter of fact – The attack phase, the evolution phase and the end.

The attack phase is the first impression of the wine on the tongue. We would get a mixture of tastes like the complexity of the wine - if its heavy or light, if its creamy or crispy or is it dry or sweet; and finally if its fruity or spicy in taste. This initial explosion of various flavours in the mouth gives us a thrilling feel and tells us a lot about that wine. It also determines the alcohol content, tannin level, sugar level and acidity level in the wine.

The evolution phase is where we get to know the actual flavour of the wine. In case of red wines, we may taste fruits like fig, prune, plum or berries. Some wines also give us a spicy taste of clove, cinnamon or pepper. Some even have the wood taste of cedar or oak. Certain red wines may taste like smoke and have that smoky flavour to them. As with white wines, the fruits we may taste are more citrus ones like orange or other fruits like pear or apple or other tropical fruits. Several white wines also taste of flowers or honey. Some have the taste of herbs and even butter. As we keep drinking the wine, we get to experience such varied flavours and tastes on our palate.

The end phase mostly involves with the aftereffects of the taste of the wine in the mouth. After we swallowed the wine how long did the taste last in the mouth and what flavour it left is very important. Some wines can be bitter in the residue and we may not want to drink more while some leave a sweet aftertaste in the mouth. Also, we would note if the taste lingered in our mouth of just vanished soon.

Wine tasting is an art which one can master with practice and every wine lover follows these steps every time they are offered wine. It is a good practice to keep notes of the wines we taste. These notes can be used as future reference when it comes to offering or buying wines. Professional tasters or winemakers certainly keep wine tasting notes.