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How To Taste Wine Like A Professional

When offered the opportunity to taste a wine by a sommelier, it can be a slightly intimidating moment: are you supposed to swirl, sniff, or take one sip or two? What is the proper etiquette, and what exactly should you be looking for? Here are a few tips to help you handle wine tasting with confidence.

Check the bottle

If you have ordered wine in a restaurant, the sommelier will normally show the bottle to the person who ordered it to check that it is the right wine. Next, a small amount of wine will be poured into the glass for tasting. A professional wine taster might check the colour and density of the wine at this point, but this can be left to those with more advanced knowledge.

However, if the wine is obviously cloudy or varies greatly from the colour you might expect it to be, this could be a sign that the wine is off.

Sniff the wine

Next, lightly swivel the glass to help release the aromas, and lift the glass and sniff the wine. If you have to hold the glass very close to your nose to pick up any aroma, then this is a sign that the wine is of a lower quality. A more expensive wine should have a strong distinctive fragrance that you can smell without lifting the glass too far. 

If you notice a musty or rotten smell, this is a sign that the wine is off, and you are entitled to politely point this out to the sommelier and ask for a new bottle. 

Take a sip

Next, take a small sip of the wine and swill it around your mouth for a few seconds. This should allow you to assess the basic characteristics of the wine, such as how dry or sweet it is. Cheaper wines will have simpler flavours that are apparent straight away, such as fruity or floral notes.

More expensive wines tend to have more complex flavours. Think of it as a pyramid, with the top notes being most immediate, the middle notes rounding out the flavour, and the bottom notes providing a deeper more lasting three dimensional flavour. Don’t worry if you can’t get all this information from your first sip, as it can take years to develop a sophisticated palette. 

As with the smell test, if you notice anything off with the wine, such as a dull or bitter taste, then you should request a new bottle. 

The aftertaste

After you have swallowed the wine, take a moment to notice how long the flavour lingers in your mouth. Good quality wines tend to leave a long lasting flavour, whereas a cheaper wine will fade faster. 


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