January 27, 2015

Wine Tasting for Dummies

You like wine. You want to go wine tasting. You’d prefer to not look like a complete idiot by confusing your Merlot and Malbec.

We get it. The struggle is so real.

Before you go booking your weekend getaway to Napa, review these basics, as described in Wine For Dummies, to make sure you can hold your own against the rest of the vacationers popping bottles and spouting ridiculous adjectives like oaky and tannic.

What Do You See?

Once your wine is poured, the first thing to do is look at it, really try to connect with it. Tilt a half-full glass away from you and notice the color, preferably against a white background. Observe how light or dark it is, what color you see, and whether the color fades from the center outward. You can also look at wine like you would the diamond ring you may or may not be proposing with over the romantic weekend; is it cloudy, clear or brilliant?

What Do You Smell?

Truthfully, what you smell is completely subjective. You won’t hear any challengers if you say you detect faint notes of the Italian dressing from lunch.

After you’ve taken a good long look at your wine, you’ll need to aerate. Getting oxygen to the wine is an important step to “opening up” the wine. You can do this a couple different ways. You can keep the glass firmly planted on the table, making small circles with the base, or you can make a real show of it by raising the glass in the air and making small flicks of the wrist to move the liquid around.

Bring the glass to your nose, take a couple deep breaths — just a couple; passing out in your Chardonnay is tres gauche — and the more you swirl the glass, the more the wine vaporizes, allowing you to detect more nuanced smells.


· Fruits

· Herbs

· Flowers

· Earth

· Tobacco

· Butterscotch

· Toast

· Vanilla

· Coffee

What Do You Taste?

Take a medium-sized sip of wine, hold it in your mouth, purse your lips and draw in air across your tongue and over the wine by making obnoxious sucking noises. Then swish the wine around in your mouth, almost like you’re chewing. This will allow you to, hopefully (fingers crossed), identify whether the wine is balanced, harmonious, complex, evolved, or complete — or needs some serious psychotherapy. The last step is, of course, swallowing it.

The whole thing should take several seconds, with the idea being that you allow the wine to hit all of your taste buds, and give your brain time to catch up with your tongue and process what you taste.

What Do You Think?

The last step is simple: Deciding whether or not you like the wine.

By this point, you’ll have so impressed everyone with your wine tasting skills that no one will question whether you think the open bottle is garbage or the best thing ever.