Three white and three red wine samples

How do you “taste” wine?

How do you "taste" wine?

One question we are probably asked more than most is, “how do you taste wine?”. We’ve all seen self proclaimed wine experts swilling their glass, taking a huge sniff then dramatically gurgling it before spitting it intonations silver bucket. Is that right? Yes and no.

The first thing to understand is why tasting is important. When a sommelier or waiter asks if you would like to try your wine, it’s not to test if you like it, but to see if there are any faults.  Yes taste is important, but not having a bad wine is more so.

There are three key things to consider; appearance, smell and taste. 

Without getting bogged down with colours and intensity of your wine, which is impressive if you’re a professional wine taster but largely irrelevant if you’re in your local restaurant, the vital question with regard the appearance is “is it clear?”.  Hazy wines can be a sign that it has gone off, so unless you have deliberately picked up an unfiltered, natural wine, then don’t drink it.  Sediment in wine, particularly red wines, is natural but not pleasant to feel in your mouth, if you are getting sediment in your first sip then you want to consider decanting the bottle before drinking.

After you’ve looked at the wine give it a sniff. Not a theatrical sniff but a normal one. The world of wine is full of fancy aromas; gun smoke, slate and forrest floor, are three of my favourites, but again we are not overly fussed with hunting these out. The bigger concern is finding any unnatural smells that can suggest a fault with the wine. If you can smell wet cardboard, soggy dogs, sticking plasters, or anything too chemically then I wouldn’t drink it! 

We’re now finally on the tasting part! If it looks ok and smells ok then it will probably taste ok! Every single person has different sensitivities to flavours, everyone has a different number of taste buds and across the world we have different flavour focal points. All of this means there is no right or wrong answers to what a wine tastes like. There may be a consensus as to dominant flavours but that doesn’t mean your are wrong in detecting something else. That’s the beauty of wine, it appeals to different people in different ways.

Now the vital question, do you spit it away? If you want, but I don’t!

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