The Basics of Tasting Wine

Wine Tasting Terms to Know

  • The Nose:  pretty self-explanatory; it’s what you smell.
  • The Palate:  This is what you taste and feel.  Things you feel would be the body, acidity and tannin.
  • Bouquet:  Smells associated with Fruity or Floral qualities.
  • Aromas:  Smells anything other than Fruit or Floral.  These generally come from the wine aging.

Maybe the snobbiest thing associated with wine is the process of smelling and tasting the wine.  You’ll see someone swirl around a glass of wine, stick their nose in it over and over, take a sip, make weird swirling sounds and you’ll think it looks ridiculous.  I used to think the same exact thing, but there is method to the madness.

When I ask my non-wine friends what they smell they tell me the same thing every single time; “I smell wine!”  I was the exact same way until I learned what to look for and it not only changed how I drink wine, but now I enjoy so many kinds of wine.

I guess there’s a little psychosomatic element to wine, but it doesn’t make it any less true.  Noticing the different smells and tastes may require training your mind, but it’s what allows you to now appreciate all different kinds of wine.

A fun wine activity is to gather a bunch of berries, herbs, flowers, etc…open a bottle of wine and go back and forth between the wine and those foods.  They even make wine tasting kits that have synthetic aromas to learn how to taste wine.   Smell the wine, taste the wine and write down everything you notice.

Here are some wine aromas and bouquets to think about when wine tasting.  With fruits you want to think of tart, ripe, juicy, dried, etc…  The same goes for other elements, you want to think of dried or fresh.

Red Wines:  Cherry, Blueberries, Blackberries, Plum, Black Pepper, Oak, Wood, Savory Herbs, Truffles, Smokey, Baking Spices, Licorice, Flowers, Vegetal qualities and Vanilla.

White Wines:  Apples, Green Apples, Citrus Fruits, Tropical Fruits, Honey, Cream, Butter, Vanilla, Nuts, Herbs, Flowers, Perfume, Baking Spice, Vanilla.

When it comes to tasting wine look for the same things I listed for the nose, but there are a few other things to consider:  Levels of Tannin, Acidity and the wine’s body.

  • Wine tannin is the drying effect in your mouth
  • Wine acidity is how long it makes you salivate(Crisp refers to acidity)
  • Wine’s body can be thought of like milk.  Skim Milk would be light bodied, 2% would be medium and so on.
  • There is also the mouthfeel or texture.  You can have different textures from velvety, silky, watery or glycerol.

Learning the differences is so much fun and your step to really enjoying wine.  The most fun is when you begin pairing the right wines with food; that’s an experience that will blow your mind.  Hey, it’s also an excuse to drink!


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