How to Taste Wine: The Heart of Wine Tasting

Are you here because you love wine and want to know more about how to taste it? I’m so grateful you are here! Because today, I’m going to share with you how to do just that – taste wine and get to the heart of it. So, grab a glass of your favorite wine for learning as I talk about – How to Taste Wine❤️The Heart of Wine Tasting.🥂P.S. The best part about learning how to taste wine is enjoying a nice glass after!

Some Tasting Notes before you get started.

💯Start with a clean, dry, polished wine glass that has a stem and a thin lipped rim. Make sure the glass is free of odors to help your nose smell freely, and your palate taste cleanly.
💯Find suitable light, which can be tricky for so many reasons when wine tasting. I have found that north-facing windows with bright, indirect light works well or LED lights when indoors.
💯No distracting odors — that beautiful smelling candle or delicious dinner that just came out of the oven will inhibit your wine’s mojo from reaching your nose. 
💯Pour a small amount of wine into your wine glass (about 2oz), enough to be able to see, smell, and taste. 


Amy demonstrating the sense of smell in wine tasting.

The 4 Main Senses used in Tasting Wine

There are 4 main senses that are awakened when tasting wine. These senses are sight, smell, touch, and taste. But first, a toast to you before you begin… ‘To you, Cheers! To awakening your senses, being present in the moment, and sensing your way to the❤️heart of wine tasting.’

SIGHT

SIGHT 👀 is the first sense used to enhance the enjoyment and understanding of the wines you taste. Eyesight helps us understand what we are looking for when describing the appearance of a wine. 

What are you looking for?

CLARITY

Is the wine clear, dull, cloudy? Clarity is what you generally want to see. However, some wines will have a dullness or a haze to them; which can be a sign of an aged wine or a wine that is unfined and unfiltered. 

INTENSITY/ COLOR

To get the true color of a wine, hold your glass at a 45 degree angle away from you, against a plain white background. Is the wine pale or deep in color intensity? What color is the wine? In white wines, you might see colors like lemon, pale straw, golden. In rosé wines: pink, salmon, or orange. In red wines: look for colors such as purple, ruby, brick red, garnet, or tawny.

CORE vs. RIM

While your glass is at a 45 degree angle, look at the core (center) in your glass vs. where the rim is. What color is the core? What color is the rim? Red wines get paler in color as they get older. The first sign of this will be on the rim, which will change from purple to ruby to darker reddish-browns. White wines will have a watery edge that will deepen with age becoming yellow gold with the gradient of that color towards the rim. Young wines can have a golden tint if new oak has been used in the winemaking process. 

Additional Observations

Additionally, “legs” are the traces that are on the sides of the glass when swirled. These can indicate a higher level of residual sugar in a wine or higher alcoholic content. 

SMELL

SMELL👃🏼is the second sense used in the enjoyment of wine tasting. The smell of a wine is known as its “nose”. To “nose” a wine, give the wine a gentle sniff first without swirling. If all smells well, swirl the wine around the glass and take a deeper sniff. By swirling the wine, you are allowing the oxygen from the air to awaken the wine. Watch my video above to see an example.

What are you smelling for?

CONDITION

Does the wine smell pleasant and clean or are there signs of mustiness, smell of bad eggs or vinegar? A clean, pleasant nose is generally what you want to see, however, some wines that seem to have an interesting odor like “barnyard” for example, could be the characteristic of the wine vs. a wine fault.

INTENSITY

Is the nose weak or pronounced? A healthy, pronounced nose is generally symbolic of a good quality wine. Sometimes, a wine will smell “closed”, yet after some time interacting with oxygen in the air, will begin to open up. 

CHARACTER

This is the fun part! Smells can be grouped in a number of ways — fruity, floral, vegetal, spicy. I recommend starting with the general groupings first. Is the wine fruity, floral, vegetal, spicy? For example, if fruity — what color of fruit is it? For example, if it is red fruit you detect, maybe it is strawberry, cherry, or raspberry? Continue asking yourself questions about what you are smelling and it will help you determine what your nose is detecting. Remember, we all have unique perceptions of smell, no one nose is the same. I love using Wine Folly’s Tasting Wheel to guide me in my smell and taste of wine. Have fun practicing smell!

TOUCH

TOUCH is the third sense used in the enjoyment of wine tasting. The touch of the wine is called “body” or mouth-feel. This is experienced using your tongue and is often one of the most difficult to describe because words can fail to describe this sensation accurately. This is where your bonus fifth sense comes in handy, read on to know.

What to describe

Body

Is the wine light-bodied, medium-bodied, or full-bodied? The source of a wine’s “body” or mouth-feel comes from certain components of the wine such as, tannins, sugars, and alcohol. Terms like velvety, silky, satiny, smooth, grainy, coarse, rough can be used to describe a wine’s mouth-feel. In addition, there is the sparkling sensation that is experienced with a glass of sparkling wine or Champagne caused by the release of C02 in the glass.

tannins

Does the wine have low tannin, medium tannin, or is it high in tannin? In wine, there are two sources of tannin: grape skins, stems, seeds and the oak barrels (wood) used to age wine. Grape tannins are experienced more on your teeth, gums, and lips. Wood tannins are more evident on the cheeks, near the back of the mouth. Tannins often feel like a drying sensation, drying out your gums and mouth. They can feel rough and gritty. Tannins in a wine soften with age becoming silky and smooth. By nature, red wines have more tannins from their grape skins than white wines.

TASTE

TASTE 👅 is the fourth sense used in the enjoyment of wine tasting. The taste of the wine, the “palate” reveals much about the true identity of the wine. To taste a wine, take a couple sips of the wine to “clean” your mouth and coat your palate with the wine you are tasting. After that, take a good sip and swirl it around your mouth so that the wine makes contact with all parts of the mouth. You can also lean forward so the wine makes contact with your gums and purse your lips while drawing air into the mouth over the wine. Yes, it does feel strange at first! Yet your palate will be free to taste more of what the wine has to offer, go for it!

What to taste for


SWEETNESS

Is the wine dry, medium, or sweet? This is experienced at the tip of your tongue.

ACIDITY

Is the wine low in acidity, medium, or high in acidity? The sides of the tongue generally are the detectors of acidity and will make your mouth water.

TANNIN

Does the wine have low, medium, or high tannins? As described earlier when we were talking about touch as a sense, tannins have a drying effect on the gums and mouth. It is most pronounced in young red wines destined to age well.

BODY

Is the wine light in body, medium, or full-bodied? “Body” is the impression of a wine’s weight in the mouth.


FRUIT CHARACTER

What are the fruit characteristics? Fruity, Floral, Vegetal, Spicy? Refer back to “CHARACTER” above in the conversation about smell to guide your sense of this.


LENGTH

After the wine is tasted, does it leave a lasting impression? Or is it short-lived?

Watch my pinned video on Instagram @godfoodwine where I demonstrate tasting and expand on what to taste for – sweetness, acidity, tannin, body, fruit character, and length. 

Bonus: Fifth Sense in Tasting Wine

Intuition

Remember, we all have unique perceptions of sight, smell, touch, and taste. There is no eye, nose, sensation of touch, or palate that is the same. Have fun discovering your fifth sense as you tune into your intuitive heart.


Thanks for wine tasting with me today. Share this post with someone you know that would like to learn more about using their senses to wine taste. Toasting to your heart❤️as you experience more wine tasting!

P.S.💯I would love to talk about wine with you. Wine is like a foreign language, the more we speak and taste it together, the more fluent we become. Comment below if you have any questions or notes on wine.


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