How to Taste Wine
A Beginner’s Guide to Tasting Wine
We know, we know. All that slurping and spitting is not for you, and rightly so - you love us at Glug wines because we're fun and unpretentious :) But if you’re going to get the best experience from each bottle you buy from us we do need to cover some wine tasting basics.
We’re definitely not going to ask you to spit anything out! That only becomes important when you taste multiple wines in one sitting. If we swallowed everything, we tasted here at Glug, we’d be drunk by midday.
There is a process in tasting and taking a moment to consciously consider your wine can really take your experience to the next level.
So, let’s do this in the simplest and least pompous sounding way possible – which is not easy.
Step 1 - Look at your wine
It’s important to look at your wine. You’ll see wine geeks holding their glass at a 45-degree angle against a white piece of paper or cloth*.
Why do they do this? Firstly, to check the clarity and cleanliness. Secondly, to assess the colour.
In general, you want the wine to be clean and clear. I say ‘in general’ as unfiltered wines are extremely popular these days - we’ll include some of these in future months - but if the wine in your hand is not unfiltered, yet the juice in your glass appears hazy, chances are there is something maybe wrong.
Now let’s consider the colour, which can actually tell you a lot about a wine. At the risk of making this too simplistic, a wine which is darker in colour will usually either come from a warmer climate, or from a grape that has a lot of pigment. You’re simply not going to be able to get those lovely dark, rich colours in cool climates.
For example, if you’re after a lighter style Pinot Noir, but the wine you poured looks darker than expected, you’d be right to assume that it might be a warmer climate region - like Chile or California.
Equally, if you like your big and bold Aussie Shiraz, you’d expect a darker liquid. If it appeared lighter, it may be a Syrah (same variety) from Southern Rhone, which is a much cooler climate.
Step 2 - Swirl ’n’ sniff
Yes, you’re right - it can sometimes look pretentious, but honestly, it’s important. You’ll miss a lot of the wine experience by not swirling at least a small amount of wine in the glass before gently sniffing. Why gently? Because inhaling too quickly can overwhelm the senses and you’ll just get heady with the alcohol fumes.
By swirling the wine, you activate the compounds which produce those gorgeous aromas. You’re basically letting the wine breathe again after being cooped up in a bottle for so long, so please; swirl, sniff, repeat.
At first you might think “I just smell grapes” but be patient. Start to collect a little smell memory bank. Practice conscious smelling (we know but stick with us…). What can you smell? It could be spices, wet stone (yes, seriously), flowers, herbs, bread… By taking a conscious sniff with every glass, we promise you’ll be picking up these aromas in no time.
Step 3 - Let’s taste!
Finally, we get to the best part. As we know, your tongue has many receptors that detect salty, sour, sweet and bitter flavours, so it’s important to make sure the wine hits your whole palate.
To achieve this, you do the old wine pro thing of sucking a small amount of wine into your mouth as if using a straw, before circulating it around your mouth. It might feel strange and sound very ‘slurpy’, but boy, you’ll really taste the wine now!
Notice things and ask yourself questions; is the taste the same as the smell; is it balanced; are the sweet, salty, sour and bitter notes in harmony? It’s not a bad thing if they’re not. It is just a personal preference.
A little tip. Can you detect vanilla? This is often a sign of oak. Is it ripe or jammy? This is a sign of a warmer climate. Does it have some grip or tannin? This may be a sign of the grape variety.
The more you smell and taste consciously the more experienced your nose and palate will become.
We’re not asking you to do this with every wine. Please ignore all the above if you just want crack open a bottle with your friends. There is a time and a place. However, we promise your wine adventure will become more interesting if you follow the above steps.
*Embarrassingly, I remember doing that at wine tastings in town, not knowing why and just copying everyone in the room. The shame.