Not sure what makes a good wine? What does it really taste like when its corked? Learn how to taste wine properly with our cheat’s guide to wine tasting, with just 4 easy steps.
It can seem daunting, what with all the swirling, sniffing (and spitting!) you see on TV, not to mention snobby wine chat. But taking time to taste wine properly will make you appreciate every sip – and let you understand which wines you like (and what you shouldn’t buy again).
There is no right and wrong when it comes your experience of wine; the main thing is to appreciate it. But there are a few simple things you can do to taste wine like a pro, even if you’ve never tried it before.
Here, Lydia Harrison, tutor at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust shares her wine tasting tips.
For extra inspiration on what to buy, our round up of our favourite supermarket wines should help guide you.
1. Start with a clean palate
Make sure your palate is as clean as possible before you start. Avoid strongly flavoured foods, tobacco, coffee and mints, for example, before tasting a wine. Have a glass of water, a plain cracker or bit of bread first. That way anything you have already eaten is less likely to affect and alter the taste of the wine.
2. Swirl and sniff
Smelling the wine first is crucial. Faulty wine is not going to taste good! Gently swirl the wine around in the glass to aerate it and open up the aromas, then give it a nose. Wine should smell fresh, typically with notes of fruits and/or spices.
Aromas of wet cardboard or a musty smell can imply the wine has suffered from cork taint and is faulty. Other aromas you don’t want to find in your wine are nail varnish or vinegar – if you do, don’t drink it!
3. Choose the right glass
You don’t need to own an entire range, but a few different glasses can maximise your enjoyment. Use flutes for sparkling wine so they stay bubbly for longer.
Smaller glasses are better for whites and rosés to appreciate the more delicate flavours. Larger glasses suit reds as you have more air contact to bring out the flavours in richer wines.
Make sure all are of a shape that tapers in at the top, to help you get the most from its contents.
4. Match with flavour ‘intensity’
Pairing wine with food can be tricky and is always personal depending on your own palate and taste preferences, but there are a few simple tips. Salt in food can make wines taste better: more fruit flavours and smoothness while reducing the impact of tannins in red wines (the drying sensation round your teeth and gums).
Pair the flavour intensity: delicate dishes with light wines, intense foods with full-flavoured wines. Fatty or oily foods are best with acidic wines (ones that really make your mouth water) so that your palate is refreshed regularly, ready for the next course!
If you have a penchant for a pudding, it makes sense to pair it with the wine equivalent. Try a glass of sweet wine such as a Sauternes or Tokaji with your dessert so that the sugar in each is complementary.
Sweet foods with a dry wine will only make it taste drier and more bitter and probably mask the fruit flavour; not the best way to finish a meal.