Wine tasting is a predefined process for distinguishing the taste of fine wines. For the wine tasting beginner, it should be possible to note the differences between different types of wines. 

For those that taste wine as a profession and are at the expert stage, it is necessary to determine the subtle differences between vintages of the same class of wine.

Irrespective of your level, here are some tips on how best to taste wine.

Degustation is a French word which has crossed into English and simply means “taking a small amount into the mouth to test its quality” – this can apply to wine and food.

The key part of any wine tasting is ‘the what and the how’.

The what of wine tasting refers to what the wine taster is looking for, such as the brand and type of the wine.

The how when you taste wine is all about the origin and fermentation process used in its making.

How to Taste Wine Step 1: Look

The first thing to do in any wine tasting is to just look at the wine. After pouring the wine into a clean clear glass, take a few minutes to look at the color. You probably already know that the color of white wine is not strictly white, but rather yellow, green or brown, or a combination of more than one of . Similarly, red wines are normally a pale red or dark brown color.

How to Taste Wine Step 2: Smell

The next step in the wine tasting process is to check the smell. A good whiff of the wine will give you some idea as to how it will taste. Take careful note of the aroma, sometimes called the “nose” of the wine. Does is it smell fresh or foul, and does it smell like wine? Often wines with an unusual smell (foulish) taste magnificent. However, based on the smell take a little time to think again about how it might taste.

How to Taste Wine Step 3: Sip

The correct protocol when you try the taste is to take a small sip. This small sip allows the mouth to get a quick preview of the wine taste and set some expectations. After you feel you can approve the sip, take in a mouth full and swish the wine around in your mouth.

This swishing, which might look a bit crass, actually gives the wine taster a better feeling for the full flavor of the wine. It is normally during the swishing part of the wine tasting that you discover if the wine is bitter, salty or sweet.

An important caution here for your wine tasting efforts – a severe cold will affect your taste buds and tasting at this time is not recommended.

How to Taste Wine Step 4: Spit or Swallow

The final step in the process of how best to taste wine is the tough decision as to whether you spit or swallow the wine. Having gone through the effort of a thorough tasting, you probably deserve to swallow! Even more so if you are only tasting a small number of wines on this occasion.

On the other hand, if you are at a winery and tasting perhaps half a dozen wines, it is probably a better option to spit. If not, your appreciation of later wines in the wine tasting may be affected – both by the affect on your taste buds and advancing intoxication.

A proper approach to wine tasting can also reveal other relevant subtleties about the wine, such as whether the flavor is derived from the aging barrel or from added oak chips. You may also be able to tell more about the sweetness or bitterness of the wine.

These general guidelines are followed by all wine tasters to some degree, and there are more additional complex rules used to professionally judge how great a wine is. Certainly by following these techniques you can enhance your wine appreciation. But ultimately the most important aspect of any wine tasting is that you enjoy yourself.

So why not organize a wine tasting party to try out what you have just learned!