How to Taste Wine like a Professional

There’s a certain art to tasting wine. It takes an experienced professional to know how to differentiate between the myriad flavors and characteristics of a wine, but just because you don’t have years of experience doesn’t mean you can’t show your host that you know what you’re doing.

There’s more to learning how to taste wine than simply opening your mouth and drinking it down.

In fact, the first few steps of a wine tasting don’t even involve your sense of taste at all, as you should examine how it looks in the glass first. Take note of the color and how much transparency there is to the wine, and then swirl it in your glass; sweeter wines or those with a higher alcohol content will leave slow-moving droplets on the sides – known as “legs” – and can give you a clue as to what you’re in for.

Next, if you want to learn how to taste wine the professional way, bring the wine glass to your nose and give it a good, strong sniff.

Think about what the wine smells like: is it fruity? That’s an indication of the type of grapes or other fruit and herbs that went into the wine. Is there a strong, woody flavor? The wine might have been aged in an oak barrel. Enjoy the aroma before moving on to the taste.

Finally, it’s time to actually take a sip. Swirl it around in your mouth and get a good feel for it. Take notice of any distinct flavors and how the taste changes after you swallow the sip. Now, put together all the different things you’ve noted and ask yourself: did you enjoy the experience? If you did, think about what makes the wine stand out from the crowd. If you want, take another sip – practice makes perfect, after all.

How to take Wine Tasting Notes

Writing tasting notes is the best way to learn up on different wines, compare them later on, and make educated purchases in the future. You don’t have to be a Master Sommelier to take notes either. It’s an easy, personal, and private way to document all your wine adventures.

Here are some great tips on how to write tasting notes and make sure you are getting the most out of the process.

Get a notebook.

Make sure and have a notebook solely dedicated to writing wine tasting notes. This way all the notes are in one place and you know right where to go when you need to reference it. The notebook can be a regular small notebook or a book specifically designed for wine tasting notes. Many wine professionals and hobbyists prefer to buy specific wine tasting notebooks. This ensures that their notes are organized and not missing crucial information.

Going rogue? Here is what you need to include in your notes.

Identify the wine

Name of the winery. Name of the wine. Varietals. Vintage. Price. Date drank.

Make sure all of the information is listed that you will need to find the wine later on. A good way to think of writing wine tasting notes is whether or not your friend will be able to find the wine in a store based on your notes.

Color

This can just be one or two words. Ruby. Straw-yellow. Just make a quick note on the color of the wine.

Aromas

Give your wine a swirl and sniff. Aromas are classified as primary, secondary, and tertiary. This can be remembered by thinking of the order of occurrence in the grape lifecycle. The grape and region itself (primary), the winemaking process (secondary), oak and aging (tertiary).

Primary aromas are the main aromas that are from the grape and terroir itself. These are often the fruit, herb, and floral notes.

Secondary aromas are smells that are from the winemaking process. These can sometimes be lumped into the tertiary smells and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference when the wine isn’t very aromatic. These smells can include yeast and tart aromas.

Tertiary aromas are from aging and oak. These can often be confused with secondary aromas. These aromas are from aging and oak. All the good spices and cedar smells like vanilla, black pepper, cedar, and almonds are all considered tertiary aromas.

Tip: You don’t have to write primary, secondary, and tertiary in your notes. Just write down the most obvious ones first followed by the rest.

New to tasting wine and need help learning how to taste wine properly? Visit this article. 

Flavors

wine tasting can be major exercise for your taste buds. Flavors can also be described as primary, secondary, and tertiary; although for reasons separate from aromas. Think of the first sip as primary, the middle or main taste as secondary, and the finish as tertiary.

A good tip on how to identify flavors in wine is to break it down into categories.

Fruit- (blackberry, honeydew melon, lime)

Herbs and spices- (black pepper, clove, licorice)

Oak and aging flavors- (almond, vanilla, butter, mushroom)

Mineral and other- (wet gravel, seashell, saline)

Flavors can help identify the varietals, age of the wine, whether it has gone through malolactic fermentation, wine regions, and more.

Tannin

Be sure to mention tannin in your wine notes. Here is a great resource on how to properly identify and describe tannins in the wine.

Noting tannins is important because it can help tell you how much oak the wine got, the age of the wine, and whether or not the wine should be aged.

Acidity

This can be identified by the tart flavors in the wine. Put the wine in the jowls of your mouth. Now swallow. The level of salivation in your mouth and whether or not you are puckering is a good indication on the acidity level of the wine.

Grapefruit, lime, and lemon are good indicators of high acidity in white wine. Tart berry flavors or unripened fruit are good indicators that your red wine is acidic. Acidity is good. It helps keep the wine balanced and happy in the bottle.

Body

Note the body on the wine. Is light, medium, or full-bodied? Does it have a heavy mouthfeel? This can help you identify the grape varieties of the wine and learn the difference between different styles of wines.

Overall thoughts and rating

Lastly, put your overall thoughts. Would you buy this? Do you think it’s a great wine to age? Overpriced? Whatever you feel, write it down. These notes are just for you after all.

Drink on! It’s time to put these note-taking skills to the test. Keep practicing and you will become a professional wine taster in no time. Do you prefer a blank notebook or one specifically made for wine tasting notes?

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