How to Properly Taste Wine

Madison Lucas Wine

Wine tasting is a modern-day pass time and skill that is becoming more and more popular. Experienced and novice wine connoisseurs travel all over, from California to Tuscany, to taste and to develop their palette. Here are some simple steps to look like an expert in the tasting room:


The color, opacity, and viscosity of wine can help tell the age and growing environment of the grapes used. Try holding your glass up to the light. This trick shows how clear the wine is. Tilting the glass so the wine thins out toward the rim. will provide clues to the wine’s age and weight. According to Wine Enthusiast Magazine, If the color looks quite pale and watery near its edge, it suggests a rather thin, possibly insipid wine. If the red color looks tawny or brown, or if the white wine seems orange or rusty, it is either an older wine or a wine that has been oxidized and may be past its prime.

If you are lucky enough to be served more than a splash in your glass during a tasting, give the glass a good swirl. The swirl is what aerates the wine, and gets all of the different flavors percolating. One of the easiest ways to swirl wine is to keep the glass firm on a flat surface. (Open air “freestyle” swirling is not recommended for beginners. Freestyling tends to leave a taster with an unexpected merlot stain on their shirt!) After swirling, try to look for the wine’s  “legs” or “tears” that run down the sides of the glass. Wines that have thick legs are wines with more alcohol and glycerin content, which generally indicates that they are of bigger taste and that they are denser than those that do not.


The smell is an important, if not the most important step during a wine tasting. Many people don’t smell their wine at all, and that’s a huge mistake! Neglecting to smell is one of the factors of why one might not be tasting some of the flavors that others do. When smelling your testers, take a series of quick short sniffs, and then sit back and let the information filter in your brain.

With practice, you can look for notes of specific fruits, flowers, and herbs. Many grapes will show a spectrum of possible scents that can help you to identify the growing conditions. Is the vineyard located a cool or warm climate? If you pick up smoke, vanilla, chocolate, espresso, roasted nuts, or even caramel scents in a wine, it is most likely the result of infusion or aging in oak barrels.

Let’s look at the different aromas of wine that Wine Folly has defined as:

Primary Aromas come directly from the grapes and any notes of fruits, herbs, and flowers.

Secondary Aromas come from the fermentation process. The most common secondary aromas are yeast-derivative and are easiest to spot in white wines.

Tertiary Aromas come from aging in bottle, or in oak. These aromas can include roasted nuts, spices like nutmeg, vanilla, autumn leaves, old tobacco, cured leather, cedar, and even coconut.


That initial entrance of flavor, or what is called the “attack,” from the wine is very crucial because it is your first impression. We like to think of the first sip as a “first date” with the wine. (First, make sure your wine has aerated, in order to get the intended flavor.) Let the wine sit on your tongue for a moment to be able to explore what is called the “mid-palate,” or the unfolding of the wine if you will. When you reach the “finish”, the last phase of tasting, take note of its aftertaste. Is it silky? Is it smooth? Is it tight, dry, or bitter?  Be sure to savor and to be aware of every phase of flavor to get the full experience of each tester.


Ask questions! This can be the first step or the last step in your tasting, but do it and don’t be embarrassed! The workers at tasting rooms are full of information about the wine they work with and if there is something you don’t understand, or would like to know more about with the wine you are tasting, there is no shame in an inquiry.  In fact, asking questions will not only give you the appearance of expertise but will help you avoid settling to buy a bottle of a wine you wouldn’t particularly care for.


Did the wine taste balanced? Was it too acidic? Did you enjoy the wine? Was this wine unique or unmemorable? Were there any characteristics that shined through and impressed you? Think about the flavors and what creates them. Think about the process of crafting wine.

Exploring wine country is a perfect way to become acquainted with different regions and to learn about the gorgeous lands that vineyards are resident to. With over 725 wineries in existence, it has been found that some of the best wine comes from the fertile soil and sun-kissed valleys scattered across Oregon state. Destinations like Hiyu Wine Farm, Maryhill Winery, Maragas Winery, Walla Walla Vineyards and the Bavarian town of Leavenworth create a perfect backdrop to taste unique and award-winning wine. Take a look at our destinations, where we handle all the details for you so that you can experience and appreciate the knowledge that comes with the delight of tasting wine.