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The art of wine tasting

Updated on February 27, 2010

Whenever you go out for dinner and you order wine, the waiter usually asks you if you want to taste it first. This wine tasting before accepting a bottle is considered chique, and this way you can decide right away whether you like it or not. And of course, in case of the latter, send it back.

If you don’t know how to properly do a wine tasting, this can be an uncomfortable experience. That is why I outlined the proper etiquette for wine tasting here.

The waiter will pour a little bit of wine into your glass, but never more than a quarter full. Pick up the glass and see what it looks like. Carefully swirl the wine glass around a little. Make sure you don’t spill anything. This is because that way you can smell the aroma of the wine better. Also if the wine sort of sticks to the side of the glass, and only slowly flows back down, this means it will have a higher alcohol content. And you have to check the clearness of the wine. It should not be cloudy or have anything floating in it.

Now swirl it again and smell the wine. First smell above the glass, after that you practically stick your nose in the glass and take a deep breath through your nose, to really smell the wine. Try and identify the different components of the aroma. Such as types of fruit or spices.

After all this, you can take a little sip to taste the wine. Keep it in your mouth a little longer than usual to really taste it. Professional wine tasters actually take in a breath of air with the wine. This is to let the wine in your mouth breathe, which will set more of the different aromas free. But in a restaurant this is not common practice, and might also be frowned upon by the waiter and your fellow diners, as it can be noisy. It is common practice at wineries, or wine tasting events.

After you’ve carefully tasted the wine, you can swallow it. That is if you are in a restaurant. If you are at a wine tasting, people will spit out the wine into a bucket. This is to prevent getting drunk while tasting many different wines. After swallowing, feel the aftertaste. What was the taste like? Could you distinguish different tastes and flavours? And the aftertaste?

Now that you have finished tasting the wine, you can tell the waiter whether you like it or not. If you do, he will proceed to fill the glasses of your fellow diners, and top up your glass last. If you do not like it, he will take it back. If the wine had gone bad, he can give you a new bottle of the same wine. If you just did not like the taste, you can pick a new wine. In both cases the wine tasting process will start over.

I hope you will enjoy wine tasting next time you are out for dinner!

Some more wine tasting guides


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