Wine tastings are a great way to learn about new wines and meet other people who share your passion for vino. But for those not familiar with the process, it can be a bit intimidating. Read on for 8 simple wine-tasting tips for beginners.
8 Simple Tips to Get the Most Out of a Wine Tasting
Wine tasting can be an enlightening experience. But, if you’ve never been to a wine tasting before, it can also be overwhelming, especially for new wine lovers. To get the most out of a tasting, consider these simple tips for beginners.
1. Take Notes
So, it’s the next day and you’re talking wine with your buddies. Your friend is telling you about this great Pinot Grigio they had recently. You tasted a Pinot Grigio last night at the wine tasting event but there was something that didn’t quite sit right about the flavor profile for you. What was it again? If only you had some tasting notes….
To be honest, both the really bad wines and the really good ones will be memorable. Don’t forget those with a characteristic you’re eager to investigate more.
Taking wine-tasting notes isn’t just a good idea for recalling information. It’s also a great way to improve your wine assessment skills. It’s good to be observant and critical and it’s also really fun to compare notes with friends afterward.
All you’ll need is a basic description of the wine, nothing that will eat up much of your wine-tasting time. Important characteristics like appearance, flavor, aroma, structure, finish, and overall impression.
If you’re curious about what wine-tasting notes look like, you can find templates online that can be easily printed. A cell phone is also a pretty good note-taking tool, and be sure to take photos of the bottle and label of your favorite wine!
2. The Order of Wine
The order of the wine is usually predetermined at wine tastings. However, if attending an event, such as a wine festival, with many different booths from multiple individual wineries, there won’t be any order to the wines that you taste.
In this case, there are a few basic rules you can follow in order to preserve your palate and not diminish the tastes of the wines.
The first rule is whites before reds. Reds are typically bolder and heavier and contain tannin.
NOTE: Rule 1.1 would be sparkling wine before still wine. Sparkling wine is usually more delicate and lighter in body.
The second rule is a light body before a full body. If you start with the bold, heavy wines you will mask the flavors of the more delicate, lighter-bodied wines. A light-bodied Pinot Noir will feel watery and taste uninteresting after drinking a full-bodied Shiraz.
The third rule is young before old. Older wines tend to have deeper and more complex flavors so you should drink the simpler wines first.
WineLoversVillage TIP: These rules are by no means essential to follow. Rules just help keep your palate feeling fresh for longer. If you’ve got a lot of wines to taste, then I recommend sticking to these tasting rules.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
One of the best things about wine-tasting events is that you have access to experts who can answer questions you have about wine.
Now, usually, these experts may only want to talk about the wine they are selling. However, they are also lovers of wine, so many may be more than happy to talk about wine in general.
Got a nagging question about winemaking that you just can’t get a satisfying answer for? Well, this is your opportunity!
4. Spitting the wine is perfectly acceptable (and encouraged)
It feels a bit weird for everyone the first time they spit out wine in public, but the truth is it’s just what you do. There will usually be a spittoon available for just this purpose.
You’re not missing out on anything by not swallowing the wine. By swirling it around in your mouth, you are able to extract all of the flavors.
It may seem counterintuitive to spit out good wine rather than drinking it all. However, if you plan on tasting a lot of wine then you need to be careful about getting drunk and impairing your judgment.
Don’t miss our 101 of wine tasting for more general guidelines on tasting wine!
WineLoversVillage TIP: Near the end of the tasting circle back to the wines you really enjoyed and enjoy a larger sample — or a glass! This allows you to double-check your first assessment and it also allows you to finish on a high!
5. Do Your Research Ahead of Time
If you’re attending a wine-tasting evening focusing on wines from specific regions or wineries, it’s best to do a bit of reading and research ahead of time. Knowing what to expect will help you better appreciate the wines you taste. Plus, you might even impress your fellow tasters with your newfound knowledge.
If you’re well prepared then you’ll know which booths to focus on and maybe which ones won’t be of interest to you.
6. Stick to Your Guns
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about the wines you’re trying; it only matters what YOU think about them! So trust your own opinion and go with whatever wines you enjoy most.
Forget about the reactions of other tasters and focus on your senses. Be honest with yourself and try not to be influenced by anyone around you.
7. Watch What You Eat Beforehand
I recommend not attending a wine tasting on an empty stomach, probably for obvious reasons. However, you don’t want to eat too soon before you taste any wine either.
Rather, I’d advise eating at least an hour before you start tasting. That way the flavors of your last meal won’t be affecting any delicate flavors in those light-bodied wines you’ll be starting with.
If possible, avoid eating anything that’s strong in flavor too. Spicy food like curry, for example, should be given a wide berth.
This applies to other foods, drinks, and activities that can affect your tasting ability too. Activities like drinking coffee, chewing gum, and smoking should also be avoided shortly before tasting wine.
8. Stay Fresh
By this I mean two things. The first is to stay hydrated. Make sure you bring a bottle or two of water with you (though it should be supplied). Don’t let alcohol dehydrate you and keep your mouth fresh and moist. This is especially useful when you start on those tannic reds
The second way to stay fresh is to keep your palate feeling refreshed. Bring something to cleanse your palate from time to time. My two ‘go to- palate cleansers are bread (any plain bread will do) and sparkling water (the tingling effervescence has a nice revitalizing feeling)