If you’ve never been wine tasting before it can be a little daunting. But wine tasting is not complicated and it’s very much about enjoying yourself while you enjoy some delicious reds and whites. There is no right or wrong way to do it, but if you want to get the most out of it read on for some hits, tips and advice for beginners.
Where to go wine tasting?
Vineyards around the world offer wine tasting sessions so if the wine regions of France, Chile and Australia are within easy reach or you’re going on holiday there soon, make sure you make a trip to a vineyard a priority. However, if there’s nothing like that on horizon, don’t despair! There are plenty of fantastic wine tasting opportunities in the UK from champagne tasting sessions in London to tours of organic vineyards in the countryside – see experience specialist Into the Blue. You might not realise how close you are to a quality winery, so do a little research to find one you can visit.
What to wear
This will depend largely on where you are going to taste wine, but in the majority of cases there is no specific dress code unless you are informed of one. Of course you are always running the risk if you’re drinking reds, so it might worth avoiding wearing white – just in case. It’s worth noting that you should probably avoid wearing perfume or cologne to the vineyard as it may affect your ability to enjoy the smell of the wines.
Wine tasting etiquette
There are a few things to be mindful of when wine tasting – one of the most controversial is whether you spit the wine out or not. The truth is that it’s up to you. It’s perfectly acceptable to spit the wine out, whether you’re trying to avoid consuming too much alcohol or you just don’t like the flavour. Alternatively, you are perfectly allowed to drink if you wish. If it’s your first time here are some extra tips to get the most out of the session:
- Cleanse your palate in between each tasting with a sip of water and a bite of a plain cracker, if offered
- Don’t turn down wine based on your known preferences – remember even if you hate it you can spit it out after sampling the flavour
- Hold the stem of the glass rather than the bowl. This will ensure that the heat from your hand doesn’t affect the temperature of the wine and impair the flavour
- Make sure that you eat beforehand. Going wine tasting on an empty stomach is a bad idea, even if you’re not swallowing most of the time
The three steps of wine tasting:
It’s a good idea to inspect the colour of the wine, to see what you can discern. You may be surprised to learn that there can be a lot of colour variation from the centre of the glass to the rim. If it is paler at the edge of the rim this usually indicates it is a younger wine. A brownish tint in a red is often a sign that this is a more mature wine. Remember, however, that age and colour does not necessarily indicate quality – you will have to move on to the next steps to get a better idea about that.
The ‘nose’ of the wine is very important to the flavour, so swirl around the glass and then take in the scent and see what you can get. There is enormous variation in the different smells that a wine can give off with everything from sweet fruits like pears and melon, and citrus notes of lime and lemon to woody and earthy aromas like vanilla, chocolate and sandalwood. See what smells jump out to you – there’s no right or wrong answer.
Take a good amount of wine into your mouth – not a tiny sip – and make sure you don’t swallow straight away. Savour it; swirl the liquid round and coat the inside of your mouth. The taste will come in three parts: the first impression, the evolution and the finish. Hold the wine in your mouth and see where the flavours go.
The first impression usually brings out many of the same smells you found on the nose – but see what stands out on the tongue. Then the evolution is as other, subtler flavours come to the surface. Finally, the finish is the lingering notes that hang around.