Basics of tasting wine

Oak barrels used to age wine

There are five basic steps to tasting wine.

  1. See
    Tip glass to see the color of the wine. Look at both the middle and the reflection at the top of the wine.
  2. Swirl
    Swirl the wine glass gently for five seconds to look at the consistency of the wine. This can be done by putting the glass on a table, holding it by the stem and rapidly moving it in small circles. This also aerates the wine and allows the aroma to really appear.
  3. Sniff
    Actually put your nose into the wine glass and sniff. Take a moment and try to distinguish different smells in the wine. Repeat this step to catch other scents.
  4. Sip
    When tasting the wine, think about such factors as the complexity (are there a lot of flavors or just two or three?), the quality, which can be a matter of opinion, and the intensity of the wine.
  5. Swallow
    Hold the wine in your mouth for a few seconds to appreciate other aspects of the wine, such as the texture. Texture is how the wine feels in your mouth, described in terms of smooth or rough.

After you have tasted the wine, try to think of a few key terms to describe the wine. Was it fruity, sweet, dry, floral or soft? Being able to describe a wine's characteristics will help you to learn more wine and remember wines you have tasted.

Watch this short video by wine expert Betty Kaufman to see the wine tasting steps in action.