Domenico Winery + Osteria

beginner's guide to wine tasting

Your Reliable Beginner’s Guide to Wine Tasting

Wine tasting can seem quite daunting at first. It all looks very professional and serious. But, drinking wine is fun, and learning how to properly taste wine only makes the experience even better. It will give you a better idea of what you like to drink and also widen your knowledge of the beauty of the wine world.

Don’t miss any of the tips below in our beginner’s guide to wine tasting!

Start with the basics (and a clean palate!)

You shouldn’t start your wine-tasting journey with obscure or complicated wines. Begin with popular varietals such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir to get a feel for the different flavors and styles. But, before you begin tasting, make sure your palate isn’t tainted by any strong flavors. A clean palate allows you to better discern the wine’s nuances. Spicy foods or heavy sauces should be avoided before tasting wine.

Have proper glassware

Invest in wine glasses designed for the type of wine you’ll be tasting (e.g., red wine glasses for red wine, white wine glasses for white wine). The shape of the glass can enhance the wine’s aroma and flavor.

Learn the language

Familiarize yourself with common wine-tasting terms such as “tannic,” “oaky,” “fruity,” “earthy,” “crisp,” and “dry.” Learning the basics of the wine language will give you a sturdy foundation to start getting creative in your descriptions. More importantly, this foundation will help you communicate your preferences and understand wine descriptions more effectively. A useful tool is the WSET’s systematic approach to tasting, which breaks down flavors and aromas in a clear and concise way. A WSET education is also an excellent option if you are serious about your wine education.

pouring red wine at sunset

Don’t forget to use all your senses

It’s not just your taste and smell you need to effectively taste wine! Look at the wine to observe its color and clarity. Swirl the wine in your glass to release its aroma, then take a deep sniff to identify the different scents. Finally, take a small sip and let it roll over your tongue to taste the flavors.

Take note of the wine’s characteristics

Pay attention to the wine’s body (light, medium, or full), acidity (crisp or smooth), tannin levels (astringency or smoothness), and alcohol content. These factors contribute to the overall taste and mouthfeel of the wine.

Keep a tasting journal

This is a crucial tip in this beginner’s guide to wine tasting. All of these wine characteristics you record need to go somewhere! Note down your impressions, including the wine’s name, producer, vintage, and your personal observations all in the same place so that you can see your growth over time. A tasting journal will also help you track your preferences and remember the characteristics of different wines.

Compare and contrast

Taste different wines side by side to understand the nuances in flavors and aromas. This practice helps in developing your palate and recognizing the unique characteristics of each wine.

Experiment with food pairings

Pair wines with different types of food to understand how flavors interact. This practice can enhance the overall dining experience and help you appreciate the complementary or contrasting aspects of wine and food.

Take it slow

Don’t rush through the tasting process. Take your time to savor each sip and contemplate the different flavors. Appreciating wine is a sensory experience that should be enjoyed at a leisurely pace.

Pro-tip: Consider signing up for a wine club so that you have new bottles to explore on a monthly or quarterly basis!

Attend tastings and events

Participate in wine tastings or events at local wineries, wine shops, or restaurants. Engaging with experts and other enthusiasts can provide valuable insights and expand your knowledge of different wine styles and regions.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Don’t hesitate to ask questions at tastings or wine shops. Experts and enthusiasts are often happy to share their knowledge and recommendations.

Trust yourself and your palate

Everyone’s taste is different, so trust your own preferences and instincts when it comes to choosing wines. Don’t let comments or wine ratings change your opinions. It’s best to enter into a tasting wine with minimal knowledge. You can even do blind tastings if it makes you more comfortable! Just remember that your personal enjoyment is the most important aspect of wine tasting.

We hope you enjoyed this beginner’s guide to wine tasting! By following these tips, you can embark on an enjoyable and educational journey into the world of wine tasting, developing a deeper appreciation for the complexities and nuances of different varietals and styles.

If you are ever feeling like you need some help along the way, never be shy to stop by Domenico Winery and Osteria where the Domenico family will guide you through an expert wine tasting, paired with delicious homemade Italian food if you like.