All your friends are doing it. Going to the winery, that is. Now they want you to come, too.
If you’re getting ready for your first wine tasting and you’re worried it’ll be this pretentious experience right off a rerun of Frasier, this is the article for you. These wine tasting basics will help you prepare for your winery visit, feel confident in the tasting room, and get the most out of your first wine tasting experience.
What Should I Taste?
You don’t have to try every type of wine—you can taste just reds or whites if you want, or even just one vintage. However, wine tasting is the perfect opportunity to try something new and different. You might be surprised at what you find you like!
Taste white and lighter wines before heavier red wines, and leave the sweet wines for last. That way, the boldest and sweetest wines won’t overpower the more delicate ones you try first.
Follow the 5 S’s of Wine Tasting
The flavor of wine is about more than just the taste. It combines experiences from the senses of sight, smell and taste. Using the 5 S’s will engage all of these senses, not to mention make you look like a pro.
Another pro tip? Hold your wine glass by the stem while tasting, not the bowl. This keeps fingerprints off and helps keep wine at the ideal temperature.
SEE: Hold the glass up in front of your eyes and tilt it a bit to see the color. The color tells you about the age of the wine, where it comes from, and its concentration.
SWIRL: This is one of the most recognizable aspects of wine tasting. But what’s it for? Swirling aerates (gets air into) the wine, releasing the aromas and flavors.
SMELL: Smell is the most important part of wine tasting. Wine has over 200 different aromas! Before taking a sip, take a sniff and see if you can pick up on any distinctive “notes” in the wine. (On a related note, you should avoid wearing perfume or cologne when attending a wine tasting, so it doesn’t interfere with the aroma of the wine.)
SIP/SLURP: What’s with the goldfish-like slurping that people do when they taste wine? It further aerates the wine while it’s in the mouth and involves the nasal senses more. If you want to try it, take a small sip and then breathe through the wine, kind of like you’re slurping up a strand of pasta. If you just want to sip, that’s fine, too. Move the wine around in your mouth to cover all of your taste buds—different taste buds pick up different characteristics of the wine, like its acidity or sweetness.
SAVOR: The better the wine, the longer the aftertaste. Simply sit back for a few moments and savor the taste and aroma.
What’s With the Swish n’ Spit Thing?
It’s so you don’t get, to put it politely, overserved. Making use of the tasting buckets or spittoons provided at the tasting bar will allow you to taste a variety of wines without ending up under the bar. (You should also have a designated driver for your winery visit—even if you don’t drink much, it’s better to play it safe.)
It’s not considered rude to taste a bit of the wine and spit out or pour out the rest—that’s what the buckets are there for. It’s not a comment on whether you like the wine or not. Even if you love the wine, there’s no need to drink the entire portion…you’ll be able to sample more if you don’t. Instead, pick up a bottle to enjoy later at home.
We in the wine community are passionate about what we do, and we love to share about it. Ask your wine server for recommendations. Ask about the winemaking process. You’ll get more out of the experience, and we’ll be excited to answer your questions.
In fact, we’d be happy to answer any questions you have now about wine tasting or preparing for a winery visit. And if you’re in Kansas or passing through, we’d love to see you here at Wheat State Wine Co.