Even though it shouldn’t be, learning how to taste wine can be pretty intimidating. It seems like there are so many steps and so many things to think about! I remember when I was first learning how to taste wine I would try to do the wine tasting steps like the people I was with, but I didn’t really know why I was doing them.
I thought it would be fun to break down wine tasting into just a few easy steps, and also talk through why each step is important. I also made a video on how to taste wine like a pro to go with the post so you can see just how to do each step!
Click through for more details about each wine tasting step…
For drinking, a glass should be about one third full, or to the widest part of the glass just before it starts to curve in again. For tasting though, it’s ok to fill it a little less full. This makes it easier to swirl and if you’re tasting more than one wine you won’t get tipsy quite as quickly! Also make sure you get rid of any smells that can mask the wine such a perfumes or strong smelling food.
The first step is to look at your wine. Start by looking at your wine from above. Make sure there aren’t any pieces of cork – yuck! You can also look at how dark the color of the wine is. Varietals like Syrah or Zinfandel are darker in color and Pinot Noir and Chianti are a paler share of red. This cabernet sauvignon is dark, but not as opaque as a syrah.
Hold the glass up to the light to look at the color. Young red wines are darker in color and lighten as they age. White wine gets a golden tinge as it ages, but a cider color might mean the wine has spoiled. Sediment isn’t bad, but you can avoid it by letting the wine bottle sit upright for a few days before serving, or decanting your wine. Give it a half swirl and watch the ‘legs’ or droplets on the wine as it slides down the sides of the glass. Wine with more legs has a higher alcohol and/or higher sugar content.
Finally, tilt the glass to on its side and hold it over a white surface like a napkin or a piece of paper. Wine is graded on a brightness scale:
Cloudy – Hazy – Dull – Bright – Day Bright – Star Bright – Brilliant
Cloudy wine is most likely unfiltered or it’s flawed, which you’ll know as soon as you smell it. White wine falls higher on the bright scale.
Next, smell the wine. First, give it a swirl. Start by smelling the wine a few inches away from the top of the glass. Then swirl it again and smell it closer (but not with your nose in the glass!) with several short sniffs. Open your mouth just a bit as you sniff and try to breathe in air through both your mouth and your nose at the same time can help you perceive aromas.
I could write a whole separate blog posts about characteristics and smells of wine – everything from fruits to chocolate, or even coffee. The wine doesn’t actually have these things in it, it’s just the chemical compounds in it giving off those aromas. A musty or vinegar smell indicates the wine might be spoiled. The Cultivar St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon has aromas of plum and vanilla with some softer floral notes.
Finally, the best part. Taste it! Give it a swirl, then take a sip that is almost a slurp. This will add more air to the wine and open up the flavors. Swish it around in your mouth. It looks funny, but this makes sure all of your taste buds are coated – it’s totally worth it! I like to close my eyes so all I’m thinking about is the wine and its characteristics. The St. Helena Cabernet is ripe and fruity and the tannins (the bitterness and richness of texture) are rich and balanced.
Want to try Cultivar Wine for yourself? You can use the code ‘CultivarWineASideOfSweet‘ for 10% off your first purchase. And here’s more information about their quarterly wine club, which is what we do.
This post is a sponsored partnership with Cultivar Wine. As always, all opinions are my own.
Thanks so much for reading A Side of Sweet! For more Sweet in your life, you can find me on Instagram, Pinterest, Bloglovin’, Facebook or Twitter, or subscribe to receive a weekly email with new posts (see sidebar).
P.S. – Love wine? Check out these other posts:
Fancy Cheese Platter with Wine
San Francisco Secret Spots – Bernal Heights
Sonoma Cutrer Winery
A Weekend in Napa Valley, California
William Hill Estate, Napa
Carmel Valley Wine Country
Oregon Wine Country