How To Taste Wine Like A Pro
Have you ever wanted to get into wine tasting but needed help figuring out where to start? This guide is for you. From the four essential skills for wine tasting to everything you ever wanted to know about wine varieties, this step-by-step walkthrough of wine-tasting etiquette and expectations has your back. You’ll be sipping wine like an experienced sommelier in just a few easy steps.
Wine: An Introduction
While you probably have a good idea of what wine is, let’s go over the basics. Wine refers to a fermented beverage made from grapes. Wine grapes are different in texture and composition than those at the grocery store, making them generally sweeter. It would take more than one article to cover all the other varietals of grapes and even longer to cover all the kinds of wine out there, so let’s stick to the basics.
Wine is made from either white grapes or black grapes. The names of these grapes can be confusing since white grapes are green and black grapes are red. While the idea behind all wine is generally the same (take grape juice and ferment it), several external factors make wine, well, wine. From where the grapes grew and where the wine was crafted to more complicated elements like tannin content, acidity, body, flavor, sweetness, and more, each wine variety is unique, making mastering the art of wine tasting even more critical.
Wines at a Glance
We’ll spare you the Wikipedia-length list of all the different varieties of wine out there. Instead, there are four main categories you should know about before going wine tasting: red, white, rosé, and sparkling wine. As a bonus, we’ll also cover dessert and fortified wines, giving you a general idea of what to expect should these delicious varieties come up.
This wine is packed with tannins, giving it the iconic dry, bitter flavor. Black grapes ferment with skins, seeds, and stems to make this full-bodied wine category. Some examples of red wine include Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. For an added serving tip, red wine tends to become even more bitter if chilled, so it’s best enjoyed at room temperature. The older the red wine, the less bitter it becomes, meaning if you’re looking to avoid that sharp, bitter taste, go for aged wine.
While you’d expect white wine to come from white grapes, white and black grapes can produce white wine. The big difference for this wine category is that white wine comes from clear grape juice, while red wine includes skins, stems, and seeds. Sauvignon blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay are great examples of this acidic wine. According to expert sommeliers, white wine is best served cold due to its acidic nature, between 44°F to 52 °F.
This iconic pink wine is crafted by fermenting black grapes with their skins for a short time, just long enough to tint the juice. The airy sweetness of this wine makes it an ideal starter wine for any tasting or party. Rosé is associated with summer parties and outdoor bashes. While some assume this wine comes from mixing white and red wine, the process is entirely different, resulting in this unique beverage.
While you may be tempted to call every sparking wine Champagne, remember that real Champagne comes from Champagne, France, hence the name. Sparkling wine is carbonated, a process that happens naturally during fermentation. This celebratory wine is often served in a tall glass, which helps keep it cool and keeps the bubbles in place.
Dessert and Fortified Wines
These categories often overlap, which is why we’ve put them together. For example, dessert wines are sweet wines, while fortified wines have spirits added during fermentation. However, fortified wines can be sweeter due to the alcohol content, so they can be considered dessert wines as well. Unlike the other categories, which depend on the fermentation process and base grapes, dessert wine is more of a pairing name than an actual category of wine. Still, it’s essential to know the difference before a wine tasting.
The Four Essential Wine-Tasting Skills
You’ve learned the types of wines; now it’s time to learn how to taste wine. While you may think all you need to do is sip and enjoy, there’s much more to appreciating a good wine than just tasting it. From how the wine looks and moves in the glass to its smell and history, wine tasting is all about experiencing the wine from start to finish.
The four essential wine-tasting skills are:
Look: How does the wine look? Is it dark in color or lighter? Is there visible clouding? How does the wine move in the glass? All of these factors can tell a lot about wine. Unless you’re several bottles in, this step should only take a few seconds and can give you an introduction to the wine.
Smell: Smelling wine is all about the association game. Does it smell fruity? What about flowery? Is there a hint of a savory undertone? The first smell that makes up a wine, called the primary aroma is usually thanks to the grape varietal. The secondary aroma is thanks to how the wine was made, including the fermenting process. The third smell, or tertiary aroma, is rooted in how the wine was aged, whether in a bottle or oak container. Paying attention to the smell of a wine can clue you in on its creation and history.
Taste: This step follows the wine from the start of your tasting journey to the lingering notes in your mouth after you swallow. Follow the various flavors of the wine through the journey, and make sure to think about the texture of the wine as you sip, as this can provide essential clues about age and alcohol content.
Think: The most challenging stage to define, thinking about the wine you just tasted, includes how balanced the wine felt and whether you enjoyed it. Your ability to analyze different wines grows the more wine you try, meaning the more wine tastings you attend, the better you’ll be at sensing minute differences between varieties.
Now that you know how to taste wine like a pro, why not reserve a spot on a Best Coast Tours Temecula Valley Wine Tasting Tour? Enjoy some of the best wine in Southern California on this guided tour, complete with custom pickup destinations and included wine flights. For more information or to schedule a private tour, check out our reservations above.