How to Taste Wines, a Beginner’s Guide

by James Stevenson

Wine tasting became noticeable in 1519. People still practice wine tasting hundreds of years later. Wines can be light, bold, soft, or spicy and come in different flavors. With such plenty of variations, you need first to understand what you’ll be drinking.

Like beverages and foods, wine tasting allows you to examine its qualities. Some wines taste better than others. To become an expert wine taster, you need to have basic knowledge about wine and master the art of wine tasting.

What you’ll cover here is how to taste wine as a beginner with zero skills. We’ll explain to you everything you need to know about tasting wine to become a better wine taster.

What is Wine Tasting?

You probably know that not all wines are the same. Yes, and that’s why we taste wine. Wine tasting is an exercise that allows you to evaluate wine. For instance, a bottle of Andre Champagne has its personalities.

Wine tasting can imply a simple sip or a thorough analysis of the qualities of wine. The degree of analysis depends on the occasion. There’s no serious tasting if it’s casual drinking after work. But if you’re participating at a wine tasting event, then it calls for a closer examination of wine.

A golden rule is to take short notes when tasting wine. This will enable you to make a better decision. Record the impression each wine gives you in your journal. You can then use the notes as your reference points in future wine tasting.

Understanding Wine Flavors

Wines contain various aroma compounds that influence the flavor of a wine. They result from the aging process. Some of the common flavors include vanilla, berry, butter, and apple.

You can make better wine choices when you know how to differentiate the flavors and aromas. The exercise is fun. But developing the right skills demands practice and commitment. It’s not something to master overnight.

How to Taste Wines for Beginners

Imagine you want to describe how an orange smells and tastes? The goal is to let someone who has no clue what an orange is to understand it better. Well, that’s not easy. An orange has unique qualities, but putting them into words can be difficult. The same applies to wine analysis.

But we can break the process into simple steps. Repeating the steps many times enables you to develop a focused palate. The basic steps when tasting wine it to look, smell, taste, and decide if the wine appeals to you or not.

Step 1: Look

  • Gently pour wine into a glass while holding its stem. Avoid holding the bulb because it heats the wine, thus distorting the flavor.
  • Allow the wine to rest for a few minutes. This gives it a great flavor.
  • Examine the edges as you observe the colors. You can slightly tilt the glass and observe the color changes from the middle towards the edges.
  • Now hold the glass against a white background and check the wine’s color.

Expert Tip:

Red wines usually fade with time. You can tell its age by the level of transparency. But white wines tend to turn browner or yellower with the rise in pigment content.

Step 2: First Smell

Sniff the wine to catch its scent for comparison after swirling. The scent gives more details about the wine. Take note of the smell you get as they tell the nature of the wine. If the wine smells like burnt matches, then it is a sign that the wine contains high acid content.

Step 3: Swirl

Next, you’ll need to swirl the wine. Swirling spreads the wine and mixes it with oxygen enhancing its aroma.

  • With the wine glass on the table, lightly twirl the glass. Or, lift the glass and flick your wrist a little to make circles.
  • Note how fast the wine settles.

Expert Tip:

As you move the wine, you’ll notice “wine legs” or “tears of wine,” they are the lines or droplets inside the glass.

The speed at which wine settles tells its viscosity. Wines with more viscosity tend to have more glycerol or alcohol content.

Step 4: Smell

The aroma tells a lot about the wine. Using the aroma, you can determine the type of grape used, how the wine aged, the age of the wine, and its origin.

  • Slightly deep your nose into the glass and take a deep sniff.
  • Start swirling and continue smelling.
  • What scents do you notice? It can be anything from fruit scents, spicy scents, earthy scents to herb scents.

Step 5: Taste

  • Sip the wine and allow it to stay in your mouth for a while.
  • Move the wine with your tongue to reach the different taste buds.
  • Note any text and other sensations like the weight that you feel.

Expert Tip

As you taste the wine, check if you notice any similarities with the scents from smelling. You want to find out if there is one strong taste that subdues the rest.

Step 6: Reviewing the Whole Process

Sit and analyze the wine tasting experience and look for a balance that will help you conclude. Look at where the sweetness or sourness falls in your scale of wine tasting. For example, a fruity scent and taste in the wine mean that the wine is sweet.


Wine tasting is an enjoyable experience. Although it may seem hard as you start, it keeps getting easy. By mastering the skills, you will be able to make better wine choices. This guide equips you with the essential steps in wine tasting. But you’ll need to keep practicing to become a professional wine taster.

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