Tips on Tasting < Helpful Hints < Wine Expert | Online Wine Store | WSJwine

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Don't think tasting is for a few privileged palates. Everyone who enjoys a glass of wine can taste wine 'properly.' All it takes is a little extra concentration and a few pointers on what to look for. Here are simple guidelines on how to gain maximum pleasure from every mouthful!


Hold your glass, just a third full, at an angle of about 45° against a white surface and look at the color at the rim and at the center.

A young red will have a pinkish-purple rim, an old wine a tawny-brown edge. A light-bodied red will be less deep in color than a fuller-bodied one.

Crisp, light whites will be pale straw in hue, older, richer or sweeter whites are more golden. Generally, white wines gain color with age, while red wines lose it.


The bouquet of a wine is even more important than its taste - as more than half of its flavor is contained in its volatile aromas. Draw a couple of imaginary circles with your glass on a flat surface to swirl the wine around. Then sniff. Your first impression will always be the strongest; after that your nose will gradually tire.


Then take a good sip — taking in enough wine to bathe the whole of your mouth. Notice its initial taste (its attack), what flavors develop next (its middle palate) and its finish.

How long do the flavors last? Is it a young tannic wine with enough fruit to age — or a smooth, fruity red for drinking now? Are the rich flavors of a white wine balanced by enough acidity, or is the acidity of a fresh white balanced by sufficient fruit?


Most of your tasting will occur as part of your everyday drinking; you will hopefully just notice more of the flavors in your glass. However, for a more formal tasting:

  • Use a room with plenty of daylight, so you get a true picture of a wine's color.
  • Don't try to smell and taste wine in an atmosphere heavy in smoke or scent.
  • You don't need to spit out your precious samples, but your head won't be clear for long! Dispense with all food.
  • Your wines should follow a simple order: whites before reds, dry before sweet, light before heavy, young before old and cheapest first. Enjoy it!