How to taste wine and develop your palate

Tasting a wine is a complex operation, which requires specific knowledge and sensibility. The following wine tasting tips are actually a quite simple method to understand and can help anyone to improve their wine palate.


1) Look: A visual inspection of the wine under neutral lighting

2) Smell: Identify aromas through orthonasal olfaction (e.g. breathing through your nose)

3) Taste: Assess both the taste structure (sour, bitter, sweet) and flavors derived from retro nasal olfaction (e.g. breathing with the back of your nose)

4) Think/Conclude: Develop a complete profile of a wine that can be stored in your long-term memory

Let’s get started: learn by drinking 😊 !

It’s important to keep an open mind. You don’t need to decide immediately how you feel about the wine or try to decide if something is good or bad. To start, just pay attention to a few factors.

And please: Hold the glass correctly! To do wine tasting and to better drink wine, always use the stem so you don’t warm the wine with your hot bod.

1) Take a look in your glass:

What do you see? Hold up a glass to light and note the color. Is it dark, rich, hard to see through? Or is it like colored glass, easy to see through? Check out also the opacity and viscosity (wine legs).

2) Smell:

give it a deep sniff!! Your nose does a lot of the heavy lifting in identifying flavors. Do you smell a fruit? Now give it a swirl. Your nose doesn’t need to take a dip in your wine, but make sure it’s close enough that you can pick up important notes (notes is wine-speak for aromas or flavors).

Broadly, you can divide the nose of a wine into three primary categories:

  • Primary Aromas: come from the type of grape and the territory where it grows. These aromas include fruits, herbs, and floral notes.
  • Secondary Aromas: come from winemaking practices. These aromas include (but are not limited to) notes such as freshly baked bread and lager (from yeast) as well as sour cream and yogurt (from malolactic fermentation).
  • Tertiary Aromas: come from aging, usually oak or possibly in clay. These aromas are mostly savory: roasted nuts, baking spices, vanilla, autumn leaves, old tobacco, cured leather…

3) Taste:

Take a sip. Try sipping a bit of wine with air in your mouth so you can aerate the wine itself. Swirl it around your mouth for a moment, so the different parts of the tongue (and their respective taste buds) can get some quality time with your wine. After a few seconds of pondering time, feel free to swallow.

In every glass, you’ll find:

  • Body: The body is perhaps the most obvious note, and it’s essential to mention because it helps build the profile in your mind of the Wine you’re tasting.
  • Alcohol: it gives wine weight. If a wine feels heavy, it often has a higher alcohol content.
  • Fruit: Where does it fall on the scale between fruity and savory? There’s no need to list fruit and vegetables. Most people know when one thing tastes like fruit. Down the scale, it starts to taste like dirt, earthy, like a root vegetable.
  • Acid: Acidity is how tart or puckering a wine is. If a wine doesn’t have much acid, it could be described as “flabby; it’s flat and isn’t perky.  If the wine has medium to high acid, it can make your mouth water, often described as “juicy.” Too much acid might make you wince like sucking on a lemon.
  • Tannin, astringency or texture: Found primarily in reds, tannin comes from the skin, seeds and stems of grapes. In the mouth, tannin might feel like sucking on a cotton napkin, like all the moisture has left your mouth, like your tongue is suddenly furry. Tannin is one of the factors that contributes to texture. Similar to body, texture has a lot to do with how the wine feels. Is it suddenly hard to move your tongue against the roof of your mouth? That can be referred to as tough or compared to cotton. Or does your tongue feel slippery? That’s called silky or soft.

4) Think:

This is your opportunity to sum up a wine.
Have you ever noticed that when you first taste a wine, you can’t tell if you like it right away? It takes a second for you to get the full impression of the wine; you’re waiting for the finish — that moment after the flavor dissipates. The finish is often the defining moment of a wine; it can be the difference between the humdrum and spectacular.

Did the wine taste balanced or out of balance (i.e. too acidic, too alcoholic, too tannic)? Did you like the wine? Was this wine unique or unmemorable? Were there any characteristics that shined through and impressed you?

Here is a basic list of different types of finishes on a wine.

  • The Soft Finish: This is the classic ‘ahhh’ moment for most wine drinkers. While the wine may be completely dry, the finish has a note of softness and elegance to it; on reds, the tannins are gentle rather than forceful, but still present. On a white wine, it’ll often be about a broad, creamy texture.
  • Tart and Tingly Finish: This wine will taste more tart or bitter on the finish. It may have some green notes to it, but on a good quality wine, the acidity will tingle and persist, giving the wine a delicate, mouthwatering long finish. The refreshing nature of the tartness or bitterness drives you to another sip.
  • ‘Juicy’ and ‘Fresh’ Finish: The wine words ‘juicy’ and ‘fresh’ often indicate a wine that has a lot of just-ripe fruit flavors on the finish, usually found on young wines from moderate climates.

So there you have it!

Take a look, take a smell, take a taste and repeat as many times with as many wines as you (responsibly) can.

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