How to Taste Wine and Develop Your Palate

Want To Impress People With Your Wine Tasting Skills?

Real pros know that tasting a glass of wine is the process of four necessary steps. And because you're here and reading this, we get the feeling you want to know these steps so you too can look like a wine pro. Good for you; we also are for people trying to further their education on wine. Even if it's because you want to look smarter or more bougie than your friends, it is still education after all. 

The four basic steps used by sommeliers everywhere to refine their palate and sharpen their ability to recall wine consist of look, smell, taste, and think. So, pretty much, if you have a brain, mouth, and eyes, you can master the art of wine tasting! The important thing about good wine tasting is remaining in the moment and focusing on your senses: sight, smell, and taste. It also helps a bit if you have wine tasting notes to go off of, but it's fun either way. Because you're here to further your wine education, we have outlined more in-depth these four wine tasting tips! Happy reading and, more importantly, happy tasting and looking, bougie! 

Consider The Color

The first method is looking at your wine and inspecting your wine under neutral lighting and ideally against a white background. When you're looking at your wine, notice its color, opacity, and viscosity (an uber fancy way of saying wine legs). This step should take no longer than five minutes, but it is essential because many wine elements are found in its appearance. 

The color of the wine provides an indication of the age of the wine as well as the wine's grape variety. As white wines age, they become more yellow and increase in pigment. As red wines age, they lose their color and become browner. Climate also affects the wine color because grapes from cooler climates tend to be thin-skinned and, therefore, winemakers here create light red wines. In contrast, wines from warmer regions are produced from grapes with thicker skins and, therefore, more vibrant red wines. 

The viscosity of wine, or what we called wine legs, will give you an indication as to the wine's alcohol content (more on this below). 

Give It A Swirl

Starting where we just left off, the wine's viscosity provides you an indication of your wine's alcohol content. When you give your wine a swirl, and the wine begins to drip down the sides of the glass, leaving behind' legs.' Legs are seen most obviously in fortified wines or wines with higher alcohol content. The slower the wine drips down the side of the glass, the more alcohol content the wine has. 

In this step, you'll also notice if there's sediment in the bottom of your wine glass, which is perfectly fine! Sediments occur naturally in most wines, so they're nothing to worry about. 

Take A Whiff

At last, we're hitting our second sense with how the wine smells! When you first begin enjoying the scent of your wine, start thinking big to small. What do you smell: fruits? If you smell fruits in white wines like Chardonnay or Riesling, try to identify the kinds of fruits. Citrus fruits? Orchard fruits? Tropical fruits? If you are smelling red wine like Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon, try to identify the color of the fruit. Do you smell red fruit? Blue fruit? Black Fruit? 

There are three primary categories to divide the smell of wine into a primary aroma, secondary aroma, and tertiary aroma. A primary aroma is grape-derivative and typically includes floral, fruit, and herbs. Secondary aromas come from winemaking practices. In particular, these aromas are yeast- derivative and easy to spot in white wines: cheese, stale beer, or nut husk. Lastly, tertiary aromas derive from aging, usually in the bottle but sometimes even possibly in oak. Tertiary aromas are savory; think tobacco, roasted nutty scents, and baking spices! 

Wine continuously changes as it ages in the bottle. A young wine is more fruity than an older bottle. Smelling the wine's aroma allows you to get hints in the flavors you can expect in the wine! 

Now You Can Taste It

Ah, yes, the very best part. During this step, you want to focus on four primary characteristics: sweetness, tannins, acidity, and body. As you slowly sip on your wine, allow it to swish around your mouth, so it coats your tongue and taste buds. Why is this important? Because different parts of your tongue detect different flavors and characteristics. The tip of your tongue detects sweetness, which is determined by the wine's residual sugar. The sides of your tongue identify acidity and saltiness and create a mouthwatering sensation. A wine's acidity reveals clues about the grape varietal, climate, and aging potential. 

Tannins, on the other hand, are the drying sensation in your mouth when you drink wine. There are two types of tannin in wine: grape tannins and oak tannins. Grape tannins are found in the skins, seeds, and stems of the grape, while oak tannins are softer, smoother, and derived from oak. Wood tannins are more likely to present more on the tongue, while grape tannins dry out your teeth and mouth. You can also pay attention to the aftertaste of the wine, to see if there are any lasting flavors. 

Now, the body of the wine is where a wine taster will find the alcohol content and texture. In the body, you discover if a wine is a light, medium, or full-bodied. A wine that is higher in alcohol content will be denser and will, well, feel heavier. By keeping these aspects in mind as you sip, you'll begin to understand and appreciate wine on a complex level. 

Choose Wines You Enjoy, Even If They’re Not “Fancy”

Using all of the incredible information all of your senses gather about the wine you taste, you will begin to develop a profile for the wines you love. At the end of the day, the most critical question to answer is: what wine do you like? By applying your sense of smell, taste, and sight, you can practically determine everything and anything you need to know about the different wines you're enjoying!