Wine Education

How to really taste (and appreciate) wine!

To really taste (and appreciate) wine is a little more involved than simply pouring a glass and sipping away – although, there’s nothing wrong with that either!
To taste wine we need to turn to our senses: sight, smell and taste.

Sight – the appearance of wine can reveal a lot about the wine you’re drinking. Colour and intensity must be considered, for example a Pinot Noir will be a much lighter red than say a Shiraz which is full-bodied and may reflect more deep purples hues. Whites on the other hand may be nearly clear if they’re un-oaked, whilst a heavily oaked Chardonnay for example will be a deeper golden colour.

You may also swirl your glass to look for viscosity in your wine, which is sometimes referred to as “wine legs”, where you’ll see the liquid moving down the glass. This is a reference to the level of alcohol in wine and not the quality of your wine – wines with a higher alcoholic content will collect more “legs”!

Smell – so now you definitely want to swirl that glass to get oxygen into your wine and get those beautiful aromas dancing. Any primary aromas will be from the grapes, for example Nebbiolo often smells like roses or cherries. Wine making practices will influence secondary aromas. So next time you smell those beautiful buttery aromas in your Chardonnay you can say thanks to the wine maker – this is caused by the stirring of lees (yeast cells) that fall to the bottom of the oak barrel at the end of primary fermentation.
Whenever you’re smelling your wine – be as descriptive as possible! If it smells floral, what kind of flowers are you smelling? How intense is it?

Taste – now to tasting your wine! Start by taking a larger sip and swirling the wine around in your mouth. The different parts of your mouth have different sensitivity levels – you’ll taste sweetness towards the front, tannins will dry your mouth out and acidity tastes sour and makes your mouth-water.
Consider, is your wine a light, medium or full-bodied wine? The body refers to the feeling in your mouth, which is influenced by alcohol and extracts contained within the wine. A typical light bodied red is a Pinot Noir, a medium body is a Merlot and a full-bodied red is a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Nebbiolo for example.
Although you may not taste the blackcurrant and cedar in Cabernet Sauvignon straight away, understanding the general primary flavour profiles of wine varieties will certainly assist you!

If you want to improve your ability to “taste” wine, we suggest purchasing a good wine appreciation book as a reference and be open to trying different varieties, and remember… practice makes perfect!