In this article we will cover 4 basic steps to tasting wine and developing your palate at the same time. The following wine tasting tips are practiced by sommeliers to refine their palates and sharpen their ability to recall wines. The steps are actually quite simple to understand so everyone can learn something from this article regardless of your wine tasting skill levels.
So lets get the wine glasses out and those brains working and lets get started. There are 4 steps of wine tasting:
- Look: A visual inspection of the wine under neutral lighting
- Smell: Identify aromas through orthonasal olfaction (e.g. breathing through your nose)
- Taste: Assess both the taste structure (sour, bitter, sweet) and flavors derived from retronasal olfaction (e.g. breathing with the back of your nose)
- Conclusion: Develop a complete profile of a wine that can be stored in your long term memory.
Have a look at the color, opacity, and viscosity of the wine in the glass. This step doesnt have to take very long. A quick look is more than enough time for this step. Most of this information can be found on the bottle but to become a better wine taster it is good practice to see if you can't decipher it for yourself before reading the bottle for a final conclusion. Practice makes perfect.
When smelling wine, try to keep a broad category in kind such as fruits or citrus in whites and red berries or black fruits in red. When trying to find a specific note it can sometimes lead to frustration. Broadly, you can divide the nose of a wine into three primary categories:
Primary Aromas are grape-derivative and include fruit-driven, herbal, and floral notes.
Secondary Aromas come from winemaking practices. The most common aromas are yeast-derivative and are most easy to spot in white wines.
Tertiary Aromas come from aging, usually in bottle, or possibly in oak. These aromas are mostly savory: roasted nuts, baking spice, vanilla.
Taste is how we use our tounges to taste the wines but even after you have swallowed, the taste may change slightly as you are now also tasting the wine retro-nasally.
Taste: Taste: Our tongues can detect salty, sour, sweet, or bitter. All wines are going to have some sour, because grapes all inherently have some acid. This varies with climate and grape type. Very few wines have a salty quality, but in some rare instances salty reds and whites exist.
Texture: Texture in wine is related to a few factors, but an increase in texture is almost always in a higher-alcohol, riper wine. Ethanol gives a wine texture because we perceive it as “richer” than water. We also can detect tannins with our tongue, which are that sand-paper or tongue-depressor drying sensation in red wines.
Length: The taste of wine is also time-based, there is a beginning, middle and end. How long does it take before the flavor of the wine fades away?
Did the wine taste balanced or out of balance (i.e. too acidic, too alcoholic, too tannic)? Did you like the wine? Was this wine unique or unmemorable? Were there any characteristics that shined through and impressed you?
Heres a final tip to take with you. Improve your tasting skills faster by comparing different wines in the same wine tasting experience. This will help you improve your palate faster, and also makes wine aromas more obvious. We hope these tips will help you grow as a wine taster and we wish you all many enjoyable wine tasting experiences in the future.