How to taste wine

A woman holding flowers and a glass while someone pours her wine.
Wine is full of flavours that tell a story. Winemakers develop these flavours with the intention of sharing an experience with you. When you expose yourself to new types of wine and pause to notice every single note, you get to appreciate the expression of every winemaker you come across. 

Have you ever driven from A to B with no recollection of how you got there? Have you ever been so preoccupied by your responsibilities that an entire year has passed you by unnoticed? Getting caught up in our thoughts is not uncommon, but it can also lead to missing out on the beauty around us.  

That’s one of the reasons why slowing down to taste your wine can be so enriching. When we activate our senses and pay attention to the wine we’re tasting, we change the way we consume. We appreciate what’s in front of us and suddenly find ourselves living in the moment.  

It’s not just about being able to guess the name and vintage of wine like a sommelier. It’s more about stopping to smell the roses, so to speak.  

Wine is full of flavours, like fruits, flowers, and spices. These flavours are all around us in nature and the foods that we eat, so taking a moment to mindfully taste your wine can help you to find more wines you like and build a deeper appreciation of many of the other finer things in life. 

Here are three simple steps you can take to start tasting wine more mindfully: 

  1. Set the mood.
  2. Engage your senses.
  3. Reflect on your experience.

1. Set the mood

There are small tweaks you can make to your environment to enhance your wine tasting experience. First of all, neutral lighting with a clear backdrop like a white tablecloth can help you see the characteristics of your wine more clearly. Removing overpowering smells from your environment also helps you focus on the flavours in the wine. 

Wine also needs time to open up and reach the right temperature. Wines that are too cold will have muted flavours, whereas wines that are too warm can taste too alcoholic. 

Some people like to go by the 20:20 rule. Put your red wine in the fridge for 20 minutes before serving and take your white wine out for 20 minutes before serving. 

You also need to give your wine room to move in the glass. Swirling your wine exposes it to oxygen, which helps the flavours express themselves. So, don’t fill your glass too high. A small pour gives you plenty of room to swirl and helps you to enjoy your wine at a slower pace. 

If you’re on a wine tour, you’re better off if you can visit four or five wineries, try 20 – 30 wines, and take notes about what you like. Then, you can remember what you tried, look back at your wine history, and go back to purchase more of what you loved. 

Sip slowly, use the spittoon, and don’t give yourself palate fatigue. There is so much to experience in wine and you want to keep the most delicate aspects of your palate active.  

2. Engage your senses

Tasting, smelling, and looking at your wine creates a more beautiful experience. Your senses can also enhance your memories of different varietals, helping you remember what you enjoy more clearly later on.

A person swirling a wine glass with the ocean in the background
Green grapes on a vine

Winemakers grow their grapes with the hope of giving you a beautiful experience in another season to come. Mindfully tasting your wine helps you to appreciate their message in the bottle. 


Start off by observing your wine and looking at the colours. Can you see red, gold, or pink? Do you see bubbles? Notice the intensity of the colour and whether or not the wine clings to the side of the glass. 

Colours will tell you about the types of grapes used in the wine and its age. Reds tend to become more transparent as they age whereas whites become more golden. If you can see a distinct rim of colour differentiation around the edge of the wine, it means it is older. Wines that slide down the side of the glass slowly are thicker and tend to have higher levels of alcohol and sugar.  


Next, give your glass of wine a swirl and release the aromas. Put your nose in the glass and gently breathe in with your mouth slightly open. This process opens up your sense of smell and you can start to look for fruity, sweet, floral, herbaceous, spicy, and oaky notes. All of these different smells tell you about the grape varietals in the wine, the climate and region that it is grown in, how the wine was made, and how old it is.


Now, taste your wine and sip it slowly. Hold the wine in your mouth for some time, swirl it around so it comes into contact with all of your taste buds, and breathe in a little. The oxygen will coax more flavour out of the wine. Since your mouth and nose are connected, the time you spend on tasting should feel like an extension of smelling. Which of the five tastes can you pick up as the story of the wine unfolds? Are you picking up bitter, sweet, salty, acidic, or umami flavours? 

How do the tannins and alcohol feel in your mouth? Does your mouth feel warm or cool? How long do the flavours last? Do they linger or fall away quickly? 

If you want to have a bit of fun, start trying to identify the flavours. Start with broad categories, such as types of fruits, herbs, and flowers. Then, go more niche with flavours that indicate the age of the wine, such as roasted nuts, spices, and tobacco. Are there lots of complex flavours in your wine or is it simple? Remember that we can all experience flavours uniquely and use different words to describe them, so there is no right and wrong answer. It’s just about sharing your experience with the people around you. 

If you’re tasting many different wines in a day, then remember to use the spittoon. If you start to become intoxicated, your taste buds will get blown out and you’ll struggle to notice (and remember) everything that you try.  

A person pouring a glass of wine for a friend who looks up at them

3. Reflect on your experience

After you have fully experienced the wine, it’s time for you to decide if you enjoyed it or not. Did you think that the flavours worked together in harmony or were they out of balance? Were they the right intensity for you? 

Record the flavours that you found and what you thought of them so that you can return to what you enjoyed later on. This will help you to learn more about what you like and give you more confidence in your wine exploration journey to come. 

Enjoy yourself

Winemakers grow their grapes with the hope of giving you a beautiful experience in another season to come. Mindfully tasting your wine helps you to appreciate their message in the bottle. 

Experience boutique wine with Wine Valet