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How to Taste Wine

Updated on February 18, 2013

Kindle Wine Tasting Books

Desired Traits of Sparkling Wine
Desired Traits of Sparkling Wine | Source

Have you ever considered becoming a professional wine taster? For those aspiring to do so, the study is arduous, taking years to become skilled in the profession. Even more surprisingly, it is said that it is said that no more than 60% of potential wine tasting candidates possess the sensory skill to excel. Despite such an exclusive criteria, the average wine taster still must possess acute, but average sensory perception. Highly sensitive and excessively dull sensory perception will skew results. Interestingly, those not suited for wine tasting tend to fall on both sides of the sensory spectrum and not in the balanced middle. Read below on how to taste wine and maybe it will inspire you to give it a try yourself. Regardless, wine tasting, if not taken as seriously, can always makes for a fun gathering activity.

The Glass
The glass should be clean, tulip shaped, clear, and without smudges or fingerprints. If tasting multiple wines, each glass should be filled equally at 1/3 to ¼ full.

Examine Appearance
After making sure you have a white or light background, tilt the glass from a 30˚ to 45˚ angle. Record the wine’s:

Clarity (absence of haze)
Hue (shade/tint)
Depth (intensity of pigment)
Viscosity (Resistance to flow.)
Effervescence (Bubble producing?)

For greater explanations of these terms, see the top right corner for my article, “Wine Tasting Basics: Learn to Speak Like a Sommelier.” It contains a list of vocabulary.

Test “In Glass” Odor
This portion of wine tasting commences in six steps:

1. Without swirling, sniff the first sample with your nose at the mouth of the glass.

2. Consider the wine’s fragrance. Write the nature (type) of the fragrance and its intensity.

3. Now, swirl the glass. This releases aromatic constituents from the wine.

4. Smell the wine again.First at the mouth of the glass and then deeper in the bowl.

5. Again, consider the wine’s fragrance like at step 2 and record its nature and intensity.

6. If multiple samples, proceed to the next one.

Test Taste “In-Mouth” Sensations
1. Allow a 6-10 ml sample in your mouth.

2. Mouth the wine in your mouth to coat your cheeks, palate, and the tongue’s surface.

3. Record your taste perceptions. Is it bitter, sweet, etc.? Also record where these perceptions are received. Are they at the base or front of the tongue, for example? How long do the perceptions last and does the intensity change?Although a professional wine taster would record it differently, I’d write some like this: (tip>bitter>10s>to acidic)

4. Consider the “mouth-feel” qualities of the wine, such as astringency, prickliness, heat, body, and temperature.

5. Record the “Mouth- feel” perceptions and how they bind.

Test In-Mouth Odor
1. Wine tasters also consider the odor of the wine from the mouth often called the “retronasal” odor. Using the retronasal senses, Consider the wine’s fragrance from the warmer temperatures of your mouth.

2. Slightly aspirate the wine by drawing a bit of air into your mouth. This, again, will release the aromatic constituents.

3. Focus on the wine’s fragrance. Consider its nature, development, and duration. Record any differences that you find between the “In-mouth” and “In-glass” fragrances.

Test Aftersmell
1. After aspirating the wine in your mouth for 14-30 seconds more, draw air through your mouth into your lungs.

2. Swallow the wine or spit it out into a spittoon.

3. Exhale the vapors through your nose.

4.The odor you receive, if any, is the aftersmell. Typically this is found with the best of fine wines.

Source: Wine Tasting: A Professional Handbook by Ronald S. Jackson


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