Wine Tasting for Beginners

If you’re new to the world of wine tasting, it can be a little mind-boggling to begin with. How do I tell what a dry wine tastes like? How is rosé made? How do I determine whether a wine tastes okay or just woody?

There are lots of websites now where you can sign up to receive a case of mixed wine each month so you can try lots of different types to find out which type you like. You can always use these to test your new skills on. Then it’s just a case of remembering the basics: engage the senses of sight, smell and taste to truly ‘taste’ the wine.

Firstly, once the wine has been poured into a glass (bigger for red, smaller for white), check out its color  Tilt the glass a little to see how the color changes. Older whites should darken a little, whereas older reds should take on a brownish tinge. Sniff the wine to check for corking. Then gently swirl the wine. The more slowly it runs off the edges of the glass, the fuller-bodied and more alcoholic it probably is.

Then sniff the wine, first from a few inches away, then from the top of the glass. You should be able to tell at least if it smells ‘fruity’ or ‘floral’. With time, you’ll be able to identify more subtle differences. Then take a small sip of the wine and draw some air through pursed lips to ‘aspirate’ through the wine to liberate the flavors and aromas. Notice also the ‘weight’ and texture of the wine. Spit out this sip, and note down what you recognized  As a rule of thumb, white wines tend to taste of citrus, orchard fruits or herbs, whereas reds will taste more ‘jammy’ and berry-like.

The good news is that if you’d rather learn under the watchful eye of an expert there are lots of courses now for people wanting to learn more about wine. Many evening courses are available if you’re serious about learning more, or if it’s simply a hobby you could join a local wine group where some of the regulars will be able to give you some pointers. Alternatively, you could fly to the Algarve or the Bordeaux region of France, where you can then drive around the vineyards to take tours and learn from the wine connoisseurs themselves. Otherwise, sneakily check out the description on the bottle beforehand and repeat the tasting notes with confidence. Nobody ever needs to know.

Marie Lebowski is an expert on all things alcohol who blogs about everything from grape to grain.

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