How to Taste Wine

Whether you are new to wine or an accomplished wine connoisseur, learning how to accurately evaluate wine is a skill that will increase both your knowledge and enjoyment. Plus, it's an interesting and educational way to enjoy wine either alone or with friends.

The Triple skybar® Wine System makes wine tasting easy, presenting three wines at their perfect serving temperature for your enjoyment. Hold an impromptu wine tasting to compare three bottles of the same wine varietal or taste three different wine types.

Skybar® wine accessories can also be used for at-home wine tastings. Use the Wine Cool Cover to keep bottles at the proper serving temperature or chill one glass at a time with the Wine Chill Drops.

 

To taste wine properly, it is important to slow down a bit; spend some time with your wine. These are the five basic steps the experts use when judging wines:

  • Pour
  • Look
  • Smell
  • Sip
  • Describe

Step 1: Pour

  • Before your tasting begins, place three bottles into the skybar® Wine System and allow them ample time to reach their ideal serving temperatures.
  • When your wine tasting begins, pour wine into glasses from the three Wine Chambers. We recommend a standard 11 to 15-oz. glass that tapers inward at the rim. For wine evaluation, fill only 1/3 of the glass, leaving plenty of room to swirl the wine in Step 3.
  • Place the glasses on a white background, such as a tablecloth or a white sheet of paper.

Step 2: Look

When evaluating a wine's appearance, you are looking for color and clarity.

  • Hold your wine glass up and notice how the wine reflects the light.
  • Note its color and brilliance, or lack thereof.
  • Tilt the glass slightly and hold it over your white background. Is the color deep or pale? Opaque or clear?
  • Look for color changes around the edge of the wine; this can indicate age.

White wines tend to be light straw color when young and then age to a deep gold. Different varietals will show different hues. For example, Sauvignon Blanc often casts a greenish hue. Red wines tend to be purple when young, but as they age, they will change from ruby to a deep garnet.

Step 3: Smell

The total impression of a wine, which is often called ‘flavor,’ is actually a combination of both aroma and palate impression. Think of how the flavors of food are muted when you have a bad cold.

  • Holding your glass on the table, gently swirl the wine in a circular motion 3 to 4 times. Swirling the wine coats the sides of the glass with the wine, releasing more of the aromatic components of the wine.
  • Bring the glass to your nose and inhale deeply.
  • Think about the aromas; try to describe them. If you are evaluating the wine with others, listen to what they observe in the wine. What they say may be exactly what you were trying to describe or you may have a completely different impression of the wine.
  • Swirl and sniff again, you may notice different things the second time around.

Step 4: Sip

  • Building on the aromas you’ve already found in the wine, take a medium-sized sip of the wine.
  • Hold it in your mouth for a bit, letting it cover all areas of the tongue.
  • If you’re feeling bold, purse your lips and draw in a bit of air over the wine. This takes some practice and looks a little odd, but it helps to release more of the flavors in the wine.
  • Swish the wine gently in your mouth, as if you were chewing.
  • Now swallow the wine. Note the impression it makes in the back of your mouth as you swallow, which is called the 'finish.'

As you go through this process, your brain is taking some time to develop taste impressions. You might notice the following:

  • Sweet or Dry – Most table wines are 'dry,' but a very fruity, youthful wine may seem 'sweet.'
  • Acidity – Often a 'tart' impression. A wine without enough acidity will seem flabby.
  • Tannins – Often give a bitter 'puckery' sensation. The difference between acidity and tannins is that acidity will make your mouth water while tannins will leave your mouth dry. White wines get their backbone from their acidity, while red wines have a tannin structure.
  • Weight – Does the wine seem thin or full? Structured or flabby? Elegant or robust?
  • Finish – As you swallow the wine, is the finish long and lingering or short and abrupt? Smooth or harsh?

Step 5: Describe

Take the time to write a few notes as you go through the tasting. It helps to cement your impressions, especially as you become better at describing what you taste and smell. Don’t be afraid of any word that pops to mind: fat, grassy, corky, smoky, flowery, herbal, leather, even foxy. All these terms are commonly used to describe wine.