Wine-Tasting: A Beginner’s Guide

Image courtesy of Luigi Diamanti /

I have to admit that you can compare my knowledge about wine and wine tasting to Paris Hilton’s expertise on quantum physics.   The most I know about wines, is that there’s red and there’s white.  The whole world of wines is so alien to me, that I’d be so intimidated if and when I get invited to one of those wine and cheese parties.  Even if you took me to the best winery in Sonoma, the most I would let out is a resounding “Ooh!” or “Aah” from all the beauty, but I wouldn’t know any better about wines.

They say that learning the fine art of tasting wine is no different from learning to appreciate music or a piece of artwork.  You derive pleasure from the effort it takes to see the beauty in it.

So, how exactly do you taste wine?

You start off by giving the wine a good look.  Look straight down into the glass, and then hold it to the light, as you slightly tilt it.    As the wine rolls towards the edges, you’ll get to see the entire color range of the wine.  The depth of color will give you an idea of how dense or saturated that wine is.

And then, you sniff.  Swirl the glass, and have your nose hover over the top, as you take quick, short sniffs.  Step away, and let the sensation sink in.   Try to identify the various scents.  You’ll find fruit aromas, flowers, spices, etc.  But if you find that it smells like a wet newspaper, that means the wine is spoiled.

Finally, it’s time to taste.  Take a sip of wine and suck on it as if through a straw.  Here, you pick up where the aromas left off.  You determine whether the wine is balanced (there’s a good proportion of sweet, salty, sour and bitter), or complex (the flavors seem to change as you taste them).

Wine tasting is pretty much like dancing in a club: it isn’t all that intimidating, once you get the hang of it.