Expert Author Rachel A. Bennett

Wine Tasting Basics

Most of us love tasting and drinking wine. Have you ever wondered, though, what wine tasting actually entails? What the difference is between drinking and tasting? Why do people swirl, sniff, and sip? What are they looking for? Don't worry, when it comes to learning about wine tasting, you've come to the right place.

The main difference between tasting and drinking wine is that tasting is active, while drinking is passive. This doesn't mean, however, that tasting needs to be stiff or formal. The only reason you're doing it actively is for sensory memorization, which is actually something you already do every day. For example, think of a food you love. Now pick a food you don't necessarily love. The reason you can instantaneously think of those two things without them in front of you is because of sensory memory. With wine, you are doing the same thing, you are tasting to build a mental database of what you like and why.

There are four steps to wine tasting: sight, smell, taste and assessment.

Step Number One: Sight
• Clear or murky will tell you if it is filtered or not
• More ruby usually means more acidity, more garnet means less
• The more a wine loses color towards its rim the older it usually is
• Legs tell you about a wine's viscosity or thickness, not quality

Step Number Two: Smell
• Is the wine clean? "Corked" wine usually reeks of wet cardboard or an attic
• Certain aromas are usually linked with certain wines, like cassis with Cabernet Sauvignon and lychee with Gewürztraminer
• What do you smell?

Step Number Three: Taste
• Sweetness is the most obvious - sugar
• Sourness is felt in the back cheeks like sucking on a lemon
• Bitterness remains fairly constant through taste
• Tannin dries inside of lips
• Body and viscosity tied mostly to sugar and alcohol
• Finish - how long does the wine last?

Step Number Four: Assessment
• Do you like it?
• Why? Why not?

Watch this video to see the above four steps illustrated: com/watch?v=GRhGz_K8QH4

As you can see, tasting wine shouldn't be intimidating or pretentious. There's no reason why figuring out what you like and what you don't like in a wine should be anything but fun. So start tasting! Following the above four steps will lead you on a path to finding your perfect wine and maybe discovering a few you didn't realize you would like along the way.



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