Oaky, lush, crisp, robust, supple – wine tasting is ripe with jargon that can feel intimidating to learn. But understanding wine doesn’t have to be as hard as some people make it out to be.
Utilizing a sommelier tool called a tasting grid, you can learn how to taste wine like a pro – even if you can’t tell the difference beyond a red or white.
What is a wine tasting grid?
A tasting grid is a list of characteristics often used in blind wine tasting tests. It’s broken down into visual, aromatic, and flavor descriptors to help the taster decipher what exactly is in their glass. But this method is also a great way for beginners to start to appreciate and identify individual layers in the wine they’re drinking. Let’s dive in.
Tasting wine is a full sensory experience that begins well before you take your first sip. And your eyes offer more clues than you think. If possible, you’ll want to start with a clear, stemmed glass against a white backdrop. Take some time to observe your glass, noticing the depth of color and clarity of the pour. Is the wine hazy or clear? Dark or light? White wines deepen in color and intensity as they age, while red wines do the opposite.
After observing the visual cues of your glass, give it a quick swirl to help aerate and release the wine’s aromas. Then, bring it to your nose and inhale deeply. Smell prepares your brain for tasting and helps you gauge the intensity and cleanliness of the wine. Close your eyes and allow the aromas to fill your senses, noting any descriptors that come to mind on your tasting grid. Is it fruity, floral, woody, spicy? Take a 30 second break to reset your receptors and repeat.
Now that you’ve examined the visual and olfactory qualities of your glass, it’s time to taste! Take a small sip and allow the wine to coat your entire tongue. Notice your initial impressions and record them on your tasting grid. Is the wine sweet or dry? Acidic or zesty? Full bodied or sharp? Taste has the most varied and descriptive flavor profiles, so take your time (and an additional sip or two).
Putting the puzzle pieces together gets easier with practice but once you’ve finished, return to your tasting grid and consider the “why” of the wine. Why does it smell and taste the way it does? Why is it a specific color or clarity? Why does it feel a certain way on your tongue? Remember, the most important part of tasting is to determine what you like. Implementing these tools will help you elevate the pleasure of your experience and build an objective approach to learning more about the wine you’re drinking.
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