Wine Tasting 101

The Survey, Swirl, Sniff, Sip and Swallow Approach to Tasting and Evaluating Wines.


Color – tilt the glass slightly and look at the wine against a white background. White wines can vary from almost transparent white to golden yellow to amber color for sweeter whites.
Red wines can vary from pink to ruby red to garnet to brick red. Some older vintages may exhibit a brown or orange tint at the edge
Clarity – white wines should look clear and bright. With reds, cloudiness or haze may reflect sediment.

Bouquet or nose

Gently swirl the wine in the glass to release the flavors. Notice how the wine runs down the inside of the glass. These rivulets, called “legs,” are a function of the alcohol content. Generally, the higher the alcohol, the more pronounced the legs.

Put your nose right into the glass and inhale the aromas — associate what you smell with familiar aromas, such as:

Fruits — apple, blackberry, cherry, fig, melon, plum, prune, raisin, raspberry, etc.
Herbs and spices —  cinnamon, clove, pepper,  nutmeg, ginger, etc.
Flowers — iris, violet, rose, etc.
Beverages and foods — cassis, chocolate, coffee, honey, tea, vanilla, etc.
Woodlands — wild mushroom, leaves, leather, tar, oak, tobacco, moss, pine, smoke, etc.
“Off” odors — cork, mold, sulfur, etc.


Take a generous sip, slosh the wine around in your mouth and hold it for several seconds – you want to coat your tongue and the roof of your mouth so that the aromas will percolate in your nasal passages. Factors to consider in tasting the wine:

Acidity – the juicy, zingy quality of a wine. The right amount makes the wine crisp and fresh while too little makes the wine flat and uninteresting and too much is unpleasant.
Body – refers to the heft and weight of the wine in your mouth. Is it light, even watery, or heavy and full-bodied? This is to some extent a function of the wine’s alcohol content.  High alcohol wines will generally have a heavier mouthfeel while lighter alcohol wines feel lighter in the mouth.
Residual Sugar – especially important in white wines which can vary from bone dry to dolce (sweet).
Flavor – as with bouquet, associate the flavor with familiar flavors or aromas. For example, a wine’s flavor may be described as berry-like, floral, peppery or earthy.

Tannin – an antioxident and natural preservative found in red wines that imparts a bitter or astringent taste in your mouth and back of throat (also found in tea). Tannins are extracted from the grape skins, seeds and stems (and to a lesser extent from ageing in new oak barrels) and so are found exclusively in red wines. Tannins give substance and structure to a wine. Young red wines with pronounced tannins may need some cellar time to soften the tannins and enable other characteristics to emerge.
Texture – the feel of the wine in the mouth – smooth, velvety or perhaps astringent are common terms used to describe texture. “Creamy” is a term often used to describe the texture of rich wines that are low in acid. The best wines will have a great mouthfeel, being either silky or velvety in texture.
Balance – one of the most desired features in a wine is good balance whereby the various flavor components are in harmony with no individual component (such as acidity, tannin or oak, for example) present in excess. When all the parts are in harmony, the wine will have a sense of elegance and completeness and will also tend to age gracefully.


This is the llast impression of the wine after it is swallowed. How long does the wine’s taste linger? Fine wines have a clean, long finish, A lingering aftertaste is considered a plus while a short finish or little, if any, lingering aftertaste is undesirable.

Stop and reflect on what you have tasted.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Wine tasting is a pleasure when one is into wine. Thanks, Theresa for mentioning Quini as well ( It’s a great way to easily expand your wine tasting experience. Definitely builds on the great information in this blog article. Here are the five recommendations/tips we just released a few days ago ahead of the Vancouver International Wine Festival.

    Everyone is invited to download ( Quini for iPhone and iPad from the Apple Appstore or sign in and use it directly on any computer. You’ll see that the descriptors once the Details tab is touched, offer many options for the taster to think about, learn and select as they rate a wine.

    For wineries, adding inventory to Quini and rating the wines ensures they get recommended to users as well, as consumers start to learn to go into stores seeking specific wines instead of gazing at labels.


  2. Theresa Dorr says:

    I enjoyed the write-up. Enjoying wine goes from simply enjoying a glass of wine to evaluating the color, finish, flavors, aroma, etc. Frankly, it is challenging and I enjoy reading posts like this that offer reminders and definitions of a general tasting and evaluating process.

    As I work in tasting rooms I am always looking for ways to help visitors enjoy and evaluate the wine. Currently I am trying out a new ap called QuiniWine and it guides a person through the process you describe – I would love your feedback –

    The selection of terms need to be expanded but so far the feedback is extremely positive.

    I also will share your thoughts with our customers as I find the easy to reference –

    Thank you!


  3. Laurie says:

    Nice introduction to wine tasting …


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