Tips for Successful Wine Tasting

Beautiful weekend weather is forecasted, and you’ve organized a trip to the winery with family and friends. Wine tasting is on the agenda, and you are looking forward to friendly banter with your group about the diverse qualities of various wines. Whether your knowledge of wine is vast or you are only beginning, it’s always beneficial to review some basic guidelines in order to make your day a positive experience in wine exploration.

Preparing Is Easy

  • Forgo the use of cologne or perfume – it can affect your ability, or the ability of others, to judge a wine’s true taste.
  • Limit the use of lipstick or chapstick – it can distort both the flavor and smell of wines.
  • Eat before tasting – avoid spicy or heavily seasoned food in order to keep your taste buds impartial, but it’s a good idea to have something in your stomach.
  • Stay Hydrated – water not only helps cleanse your palate, but helps to reduce the effects of the alcohol content.
  • Be Responsible – as with any outing that involves alcohol, plan on one individual in your group as designated driver.

At The Winery

  • Don’t overwhelm your palate. That big bold red wine can overpower the taste of a light crisp white. As a general rule, taste white wines first and progress from light to dry to sweet.
  • Skip the cheese. Stick to light, plain crackers between tastings. Cheese tends to alter the flavor of wines, so enjoy the cheese pairing later when you decide on your favorite bottle of wine.
  • See, Smell, Sip, Swallow. Remember – don’t be persuaded by the opinions of others. With practice, you will soon discover what you prefer.


Hold the wine glass to the light by its stem. Do you like its appearance? Is it light, dark, murky, brilliant?


When you swirl the wine in the glass, it helps to aerate and release the aromas. What is your first impression of the smell? Is the scent clean and pleasant, or do you detect off-odors?


Sip the wine and hold it in your mouth for a moment. Does it feel full or is it thin? Are the tannins harsh or soft?


Swallow the wine and consider the taste. Do the flavor and smell agree? Be sure to jot down any comments in order to remember your observations.



A Final Note


As you develop your palate for wine, it can be fun to try and identify the various aromas in each wine. Depending on the region, some grape varietals tend to have classic scents. This “cheat sheet” can help you get started:


Cabernet Sauvignon: black currant, mint, plum, eucalyptus, olives, vanilla, black cherry


Merlot: red berries, black berries, mint, herb, bell pepper, plum, chocolate


Pinot Noir: red currant, strawberry, cherry, raspberry, violets, mushrooms


Syrah/Shiraz: raspberry, blackberry, jam, leather, coffee


Zinfandel: wild berries, raspberry, plum, pepper


Chardonnay: apple, melon, peach, pineapple, pear, lemon, honey, butter


Sauvignon Blanc: grass, gooseberry, herbs, tropical fruit, citrus, fig


Riesling: green apple, lime, peach, grapefruit, honeysuckle, floral, toast




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