learn how to taste wine properly

Expert sommelier and wine educator Marnie Old demonstrates how to taste wine using four senses to evaluate – sight, smell, taste, and texture. Learn how to detect dryness vs. sweetness, fruit flavors vs. oak flavors, and qualities like acidity and body.

When we learn how to taste wine it’s always more fun when you actually do it, rather than reading about it… so go grab a bottle before starting this video, and join right in!


I’d even suggest grabbing a pen and paper and taking some notes… maybe start to keep a little wine journal online or off, and each time you try something new, write down your findings. Not only will it be easier to remember what you like, but if you’re new to wines and just learning how to taste wine properly, you’ll see that over time your tastes will change. 

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Most people start with enjoying the sweeter wines first, and then over time find them too sweet as they develop their palate and start to like drier wines better. Of course, like most things in the wine world, that’s not a rule, just what we tend to see. Enjoy … cheers…. ~Nick 

Learn How to Taste Wine

This video is an excerpt from iPad/iPhone book “Wine Simplified.” For more tips and tricks to navigating the world of wine visit: http://betterbook.com/wine    Also available on iTunes.

When we start learning how to taste wine and really want to learn more about it, one of the first things we do is start paying more attention when we taste wine on the first sip, and developing a little routine of how we go about it and a little mental database. A sensory checklist of characteristics that we look for is one of the first steps in really expanding your wine experience and building your wine confidence.

learn to taste wines properly
Marnie Old Shows How to Taste Wine – Thanks Marnie!

When it comes to the mechanics of tasting there are a few things that we want to always do every time we try a new wine. Step one on the “how to taste wine” spectrum is to look at the color. A white background really helps to give us a sense of whether this red wine is translucent or opaque for example, or whether a white wine is almost water-white or has that golden tinge that we associate with aging.

After looking at the color, the next thing that we’re going to do is swirl the glass. Swirling freehand like this up in the air can be a little dangerous. The first time you try, I recommend using a tabletop or a surface and holding the stem of the glass as if it was a pencil between your fingers. Pretend you’re, drawing little circles on the bar top.

After we’ve swirled, and we’ve Coated the inside of the wine glass with a layer of wine, which increases its evaporation rate and amplifies its smells… all of those scents that we know and appreciate in white and red wines are amplified so that swirling the wine glass is almost like turning up the volume on the stereo. You’re, just doing it for your nose.

After we’ve swirled and given it a sniff, we’re going to take a nice sip, a little bit larger than you might take as a sip socially, and squish it around on the inside of the mouth before we’re ready to swallow. Doing this makes sure that we coat every surface area, that we hit every taste bud, that we get as much textural impact as we can, and it really gives us a much stronger impression of the flavor and feel of the wine in the mouth.

how to taste wine wine

You can almost pretend you’re chewing the wine or even like it’s your mouthwash in the morning. The important thing is to hold it for a few seconds and make sure you hit every surface. (growing up I had a friend who would “chew” anything he drank this way… Coke, water, a chocolate shake… you name it, he chewed it ~Nick)

Among our senses, there are four that we use when we learn how to taste wine. Visual, or sight… and we look at taste, smell and touch as well. On visuals, this is definitely a red wine, not a white or a pink wine. In terms of its density of color, we have translucency at the core, so this is on the paler end of the spectrum.

In terms of flavor and taste on the taste buds, this wine, when I tasted it, did not have any noticeable sweetness at the tip of the tongue, so it’s a style that we would call dry, meaning not sweet at all. The next taste I look for is acidity, which is something we feel more down the sides of the tongue, often as a perceptible tingling… sort of like what you would get with lemon or vinegar. This would be a medium acidity wine.

When we come to the next sense that we’re going to examine as we learn how to taste wine, that is our olfactory sense… but we remember that smell does not just come this way when we inhale from the glass, but also, scent rises up from the mouth through the retronasal passage to reach our olfactory Center.

In terms of flavors, we look for two categories: the wine’s fruit, which is all of the smells and flavors that are associated with the grapes and winemaking, which of course occur in all wines. And the smell and flavor of oak, which only occurs when we use new oak barrels for either fermenting or maturing the wine. In the case of this lovely California Pinot Noir, we have both moderate fruit and moderate oak components going on.

Last but not least, the last items on our sensory checklist are to look at tactile sensations things we perceive with our sense of touch… and no I don’t mean that we’re going to be feeling the wine with our fingers. I mean that we’re going to be feeling it inside the mouth. Wines of different alcoholic strengths feel different in terms of their texture, with higher alcohol wines feeling fuller-bodied, and lower alcohol wines feeling lighter and more sheer in the mouth.

This wine, at about thirteen and a half percent alcohol, is right at the medium-bodied end of the spectrum. Generally speaking, tannin is something that expresses itself as a feeling of dryness, almost like somebody patted off the top of your tongue with a paper towel. This Pinot Noir is on the low end, the soft end of the tannin spectrum, and is not something that would be described as stringent or aggressive… and this covers our tasting technique!

When we learn how to taste wine, we’re, going to see, we’re going to swirl, sniff, sip and savor, and every time we do we’re going to walk through how the wine looks, how it tastes, how it smells and how it feels and rate it on our sensory checklist of characteristics.


Want to hear more from Nick? Grab “Any Glass With Wine in it is a Wine Glass”. If you’d like to read the intro, or order it in paperback, on Kindle, or even as an audiobook to listen to as you drive to your favorite wine shop, you can grab it by clicking here!

Or, if you want some personal wine recommendations from my co-editor and knowledgeable consultant, contact [email protected], or call Pat at (866) 332-9463. He is a 27-year veteran professional consultant.

He’ll learn your preferences and budget, and never try to convince you to buy something you won’t enjoy… and if you don’t, he’ll take back the empty bottle (actually. you can keep it) and send you something else to replace it!

Cheers, Nick & Pat

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