The Basics of Wine Tasting

Wine tasting can seem daunting if you’ve never tried it before. The stereotype of the wine snob is still commonplace, even though wine is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the UK. Did you know that 20 litres of wine is consumed by an adult per year? And that’s accounting for the 20% (and rising) number of teetotallers. 

So, without embarking on a WSET course (which is both time-consuming and expensive), how do you learn to taste wine? There are a few steps you can follow, and over time you’ll be able to make more confident decisions about the wines you try. 

Be adventurous with the wines you pick when it comes to tasting. Choose something you wouldn’t usually. Doing a blind tasting is a good way to build up your wine tasting skills. Buy a few bottles made with different grapes and regions, cover the labels and try each one. 

Make notes about the wine’s appearance, aromas and taste, and compare these to the usual characteristics of style and region. Does it taste like a Chardonnay from Burgundy, or a Riesling from Austria? Over time, you’ll pick up the nuances of different aromas and characteristics. 

So with that said, here are a few pointers to follow with each wine you try. 

How to Taste Wine

  • Prepare Your Set Up: Use a glass with a tapered top to trap the wine’s aromas, get a notebook ready and make sure your wine is the correct temperature. Different wines are best drank at different temperatures, so keep that in mind. 
  • Notes on Appearance: Tilt your glass and look at it against a white surface (this can be paper). Is is translucent? Or almost opaque? Create a scale and jot down where you think the wine fits. 
  • Smell the Wine: What aromas come to you when you first smell the wine? Note them down. What fruit is there? Can you identify spices? 
  • Taste for Characteristics: Use a similar scale for colour to figure out tannins, acidity, sweetness, body and finish. Different styles of wine will have certain characteristics. 
  • Make Notes: Is the wine typical of the grape, style and region? Did you enjoy it? What might you pair this wine with? 

Points to Consider

Some of the characteristics you’re looking for in a way can be misleading. ‘Sweetness’ is wine doesn’t mean how sweet or fruity it tastes, but how much sugar is actually in the wine. A good way to test this out in practice is to try a white wine with fruity aromas with a sweet dessert or demi-sec sparkling wine. 

It goes without saying that wine tasting comes with practice. Why not experiment with a wine tasting at home?

Want to make the most of your wine tasting experience? 

At Wine List, we want to help you learn about wine in a flexible, non-pretentious way. Our monthly wine subscription includes two wines from lesser-known regions and producers to broaden your wine knowledge. Each wine comes with a detailed tasting note, complete with food pairings and trivia.

Our 12-month wine learning course, Wine Roots, is included with our subscription. Each month, you learn about the different principles of wine including region, taste, climate and production. By the end of the year, you’ll be able to read a wine list at a restaurant with confidence.

Want to take your tasting skills to the next level? Sign up for £39 per month.