Wine Tasting Tips to Sip Like a Sommelier

Attending a wine tasting is one of the best ways to learn about wine and spend some time with friends. Some people, however, aren’t all that familiar with the difference between wine tasting and drinking.

Even though the two activities sound similar (and are sometimes even used synonymously), there is a world of difference between drinking wine, and truly tasting it.

For people who are new to the wine tasting world, getting the hang of the technique may be a little tricky. Do you take it right in or do you take a small sip that you savor? How much do you swirl? What are you supposed to see when you inspect the wine? Is your sense of taste sophisticated enough to savor the taste of wine? These are some common questions people who are new to the business have.

Another popular question is if the technique remains the same for non-alcoholic wine. The truth is, the tasting experience doesn’t differ much with alcohol composition. So whether you lead an alcohol-free lifestyle or prefer to enjoy a chilled glass of alcoholic wine every once in a while, these tips will help you sip like a professional sommelier.

Look At The Wine

This step might seem like a no-brainer, but as they say, you drink with your eyes. The actual process of wine tasting starts with seeing the wine, and involves a lot more than just a quick glance at your glass before you chug it all down.

To taste wine like a sommelier, the first step is to take a moment to evaluate the liquid in your glass. You’ve probably seen this step being performed in a movie every time there is a luxury wine tasting scene. Notice the color, clarity, and consistency. Take note of how rich or deep the color is and how clear it is by holding it up in good lighting.

Notice if the wine is pale, rich, dark, or colorless. White wine ranges from completely clear to very pale green, yellow, and even some shades of light brown.

Red wine varies between true red, ruby red, and various shades of purple. One key difference between white and red wines is that white wines tend to turn a darker color as they age, while red wines lose their color and start to turn brown.

Keep these pointers in mind when you evaluate the wine and move onward to the next step.

drinking wine

Swirl The Wine

There is a very strong reason for why sommeliers swirl their wine around their glass. Swirling exposes the wine’s ‘legs.’ A wine’s ‘legs’ are the tears that run down the surface of the glass after you’ve swirled it. A wine with very strong tears indicates a high level of alcohol and glycerin, which is also evident in a denser texture.

As you swirl the wine, be mindful of how you hold the glass. Since the temperature of your hand can warm the wine up a little, it is recommended to hold the glass from the base or the stem. Some experienced sommeliers even swirl the wine in the air. However, if you’re new to wine tasting, we recommend you stick to the glass method.

Experts say that swirling also makes the wine smell and taste better because it mixes the ingredients, drawing oxygen from the air, and in turn, also intensifying the smell.

Smell The Wine

Even though this step might sound like it exists to add a dramatic flair to the entire experience, there is science behind smelling wine.

According to LiveScience, researchers suggest that an approximate of 80% of the flavors we get to experience in food and beverage items are a manifestation of what we smell. This means that our experience of eating depends majorly on our sense of smell; to truly gauge the flavor of a food or beverage item, you must first smell it.

As you smell your wine, pay special attention to the aromas that arise from the swirling action. These aromas tell you a lot about the nature of the wine; for example, the grape variety, the vineyard location, etc. Some experienced sommeliers can even tell what wine making process it has gone through, just by the smell!

For reference, keep in mind the aromas and scents from popular vegetable and fruit items. Some major wine varieties include fruit and floral, spice and vegetable, and oak.

Sip The Wine

This is where you confirm all the things you noticed earlier. Do the aromatic scents you experienced in the previous steps match the tastes? Do they belong to the same food source they indicated? Does the wine taste as dense and dark as it looked? What about the lighter wines, do they taste as light on the palate as the color they show?

The art of tasting wine involves filling your mouth about halfway and then subtly swishing it around instead of gulping it down in an instant. Different areas of the tongue have different functions; for example, the tip of the tongue detects sweetness, the inner sides recognize sour tastes, the outer sides favor saltiness, and the back of the tongue tells you that you’ve eaten something horridly bitter.

In order to fully taste the wine, it is a good idea to roll a sip around your mouth, and evaluate the taste. Mineral and earthy tastes also help pinpoint the identity of the wine.

Another thing sipping helps with is determining the structure of the wine. There are three things that wine must consist of, namely; Tannin, acidity, and alcohol (with the exception of non-alcoholic wines) and sipping helps determine the composition of each of these components.

pouring wine

Swallow The Wine

Finally, the last step of the process is swallowing the wine. Just like all other steps, there is a technique and art to it that determines some particular aspects of the wine. To swallow, tilt your head back slightly and instead of gulping the wine down, let it slowly run down your throat.

Now, notice the aftertaste of the wine. This is called the ‘finish’ of the wine. The higher quality the wine is, the more pronounced its finish will be. The strong finish of luxury wine will linger on your palate for a longer time.

During this final phase, go over your entire wine tasting experience. Did you enjoy it? What part of the entire experience did you like the most? What impression did the wine leave you with? Was the wine worth its cost? What food would you drink this wine with? Would you try it again? At this point, it may be helpful to write down your favorite and least favorite aspects of the experience as you move forward.

To clean your palate and prepare for tasting a different wine, eat something plain or drink water to wash down the finish. Then, raise your next glass!

If you’re thinking of treating your friends or family to a wine country tours vacation, consider The Wine Stay as your shot at an unforgettable wine experience.

Keep these tips in mind as you Immerse yourself in the tranquility of the Wine Country with luxurious vacation rentals in Healdsburg, CA. Apart from visiting 3–4 wineries, our tour also includes a personal sommelier who will answer all your questions and elevate your experience!

Get in touch with us for more information about our vacation homes.