Wine Tasting 101 – How to Taste Wine
by Kathleen Matson, Tasting Room Manager at Galen Glen Winery
Often, when I think about wine, I think about the conversations between Niles and Frazier, the Crane brothers, on the hit show Frazier. They would make wine sound so complicated—something that required essay answers instead of simple phrases like, “that’s good” or “I like that.” Do you avoid wine tastings for fear of encountering a wine snob or feeling wine-dumb? You should not let that stop you from an enjoyable time. Here are a few basics—start with the 5 S’s.
1. See. Look at your wine. Hold the glass by the stem and slightly tilt it. Look at the color. Do you see a color difference between the center and the edges? Make a note of the color.
2. Swirl. Gently swirl your glass—you don’t want to marinate the person next to you. Swirling allows oxygen into the wine and opens the aroma. Don’t skip this step or you cannot proceed to #3.
3. Sniff. Hold the glass a few inches from your nose, then let your nose go into the glass and inhale. What do you smell? Sometimes wine lists will state the aromas you should smell. Can you detect these or do you detect others? Make more notes.
4. Sip. Take a little sip and let it roll on your tongue before you swallow. Sipping is important; this is not a shooter and while some wine begs to be gulped, avoid it during a tasting. When you sip, let the wine be exposed to all areas of your tongue so you can detect sweet, sour, savory, bitter, salty, etc. If you are brave and want to truly grasp the many aromas and flavors of wine, purse your lips together and suck in some air and then exhale through your nose. This will open up the flavors on your palate and lets the wine’s aromas pass through your nose again.
5. Savor. This is why you do not gulp wine. You cannot savor if you are gulping. Take a second sip of the wine and savor it. After you swallow the wine, note the finish and how long it lasts. Remember that a tasting is an experience, take your time and enjoy it. It is not a race to the finish and the fastest taster does not win.
With these skills you are ready to go to any winery and taste like a pro. Next time I’ll cover some wine tasting etiquette tips.