How to Taste Wine: Step-by-Step Guide & Pro Tips

It’s happened to us all. You’re at a fancy restaurant, perhaps trying to impress your other half/Tinder date/whoever, and the wine you’ve ordered arrives. The sommelier shows you the bottle and you nod appreciatively at the label – you’re already feeling pretty good as your wine knowledge has led you to choose an appropriately priced, well-paired, excellent wine. Amid much pomp and ceremony, the sommelier opens the bottle, perhaps lets you smell the cork and pours a mouthful into your glass. And then … seized by fear, you suddenly realise you don’t know what to do. Do you sip or do you swallow? Will you really know if the wine is corked or not? And – God forbid, what happens if you don’t like it? As your dinner partner looks on, you know that the pressure is on. This is your time to shine. 

We’ve all seen the motions: the swirling in the glass, the sniff, the sort of “chewing” of the wine before you swallow it, but really, do you actually know what you’re doing? 

How to taste wine is a primordial part of appreciating your vino – and not just so you can seal the deal with your Tinder date. Being able to properly taste, and therefore evaluate, a wine gives you a deep understanding of it and turns you from enthusiast to connoisseur in a single sip. Like the sound of that? Then read on, as we’re going to take you through a quick wine tasting 101. Tindering will never be the same again. And not only – knowing how to taste wine you can explore wine investment, which is now easier than ever through a wine investing app.

What Is the Correct Way to Taste Wine?

It’s not just about trying to impress your other half. Even if you’re not a professional wine taster, having a decent grasp on what to look for, be it by sight, smell or taste will allow you to have an unbiased opinion of the wine. This in turn will allow you to make an educated choice when it comes to investing, as you will know first hand what the quality and age development will be. 

The correct wine tasting steps are literally as easy as one, two, three, four, five. Basically, what you need to remember here are the five sesses – see, swirl, sniff, sip and savour. These five little s words are the oenologist’s holy bible and what you need to remember the next time you find yourself sitting down to dinner next to James Suckling.

Step one:

First you need to see the wine. Wine tasting actually begins before you’ve even started. Begin by looking at the wine’s colour – how deep or transparent is it? Is it dark? Purists will use a white background to really get a feel for this, and many can spend hours discussing the merits of a wine before it’s even touched their lips.

Step two:

Then you need to swirl the wine. This act of swooshing your wine around its glass helps the wine’s aromas to oxygenate, thus making them easier to smell (step three). Use a small amount of wine in a large bowled glass for optimum exposure. And yes, it looks pretty cool too.  

Step three:

Now comes the all-important smell. The smell (or nose) of aromas is given off after the swirling. Much of the perceived taste comes from the initial smell. This is an all-important part of wine tasting – and we haven’t even tasted a drop yet! 

Step four:

The time has finally come for you to actually sip (or taste) the wine. Inhale, take a sip and let the wine sit there for a second or so in your mouth. You don’t need to gargle the liquid like mouthwash, au contraire, you want to let all those gorgeous aromas and bouquets linger on your palate. 

Step five:

Now it’s time to savour. Let the wine linger on your tongue before gently swallowing it. The taste on your palate can be very different from the taste proper, so the swallow should not be a great gulp down. Rather, let the liquid trickle down your throat, slowly seducing you as if it were a lover. 

Bonus Tips on Professional Wine Tasting

Veni, vidi, vici. You’ve come, you’ve seen, you’ve conquered. Feeling pretty smug, right? That’s ok, you can be – you’ve mastered the wine tasting steps and your reputation as a wine connoisseur is intact. Phew. 

But, like life, wine tasting is not as easy as it seems. What happens if you have two colours to taste? What is the correct wine tasting order?

This is actually quite an easy one and makes complete sense logically. As red wine is packed full of tannin and has a generally stronger taste, white wines should always be sampled first. The exception to the rule: sweet wines (such as Sauternes or other white dessert wines). So the order is: white, red, sweet white. This order works well temperature-wise too – the cooler white wines will open up the palate, almost like a warm-up exercise for when the reds come into play. The warmth of the red will in turn enhance the appreciation of the sweeter, dessert wines. Keep in mind that many red wines should be decanted.

To choose which wine to taste first, check out all wine types.

How to Hold a Wine Glass Like a Pro

Holding your glass properly will take you from zero to hero straight away. Never, and we cannot stress this enough, never, ever hold your glass by its bowl. We don’t care if you are at the Bordeaux En-Primeur tastings, at the Louis XV in Monte-Carlo, in a dive bar in Buenos Aires or even just at home, holding your glass by the bowl is the ultimate cardinal sin when it comes to how to taste wine.

There are many different types of wine glasses (see below), but they all come with a stem. You should be holding your glass where the stem joins the bowl, not hugging the bowl like it was a mug of tea, nor dangling off it like it was a paintbrush. Apart from being normal social etiquette, holding your glass correctly will help keep the wine at the correct temperature as there will be no heat transferral from your hand. Plus, it just looks better. 

How to Choose a Wine Glass

Have you ever been to a posh restaurant and you order a white wine and your date orders a red? And the waiter changes the glasses? What’s all that about? The different types of wine glasses are almost as complex as the different types of wine. 

When you choose your wine glass, you need to think about the characteristics of your vintage and the appropriate vessel that will suit it. If the wine has high alcohol content, you’ll want a smaller glass with a bowl that slopes inwards, in order to catch the aromas. If you are drinking white, then you’ll want something with a big bowl and a larger opening to fully appreciate the delicate tastes. And if you’re drinking Champagne, you want a tall and narrow glass to retain the bubbles (those Gatsby-esque saucers might look beautiful but they let the fizz run free). And never fill your wine glass too full. You want the oxygen to work its magic. 

Additional Wine Tasting Resources

Our final bonus tip is to read some more related articles so you have even bigger knowledge on how to taste wine. These are our top picks:

  1. Wine Tasting Terms
  2. Wine Flavors
  3. Wine Types
  4. Wine Pairings

Now that you have the knowledge about how to taste wine you can continue reading how to invest in wine like a pro!

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