Wine 101: The Basics of Wine Tasting

Misa Los Angeles Eloisa Dress In Tile Print | Wine 101 by popular D.C. lifestyle blogger, Alicia Tenise: image of Alicia Tenise standing outside at a winery and wearing a Eloisa Dress  MISA Los Angeles brand: MISA Los Angeles, Steve Madden Women's Travel Rock Stud Flat Sandals, GOLD DORADO MIYUKI BEADS APPLE WATCH STRAP, and The Sis Kiss It’s All in a Name™ Personalized Necklace while holding a glass of wine.

Do vineyards intimidate you? Are you afraid you’ll look silly while wine tasting? Want to have your own proper wine tasting at home? Guys: I got you

I’ve been to almost 100 wineries in my life, and I recently got my WSET Level 1 Certification — I’m hoping to start Level 2 in the fall! When I went to my first winery at age 23, I felt pretty intimidated when it came time to taste wine. Now that I’ve learned how to properly taste wine from dozens of winemakers and my WSET training, today, I’m going to show you how to go wine tasting like a pro!

P.S. — if you want to see these wine 101 tips in short video form, you can check out my Instagram Reel going over all these steps here! Today, we’re going to go a bit more in-depth than the Reel does.

Early Mountain Vineyards | Wine 101 by popular D.C. lifestyle blogger, Alicia Tenise: image of Alicia Tenise standing outside at a winery and wearing a Eloisa Dress  MISA Los Angeles brand: MISA Los Angeles, Steve Madden Women's Travel Rock Stud Flat Sandals, GOLD DORADO MIYUKI BEADS APPLE WATCH STRAP, and The Sis Kiss It’s All in a Name™ Personalized Necklace while holding a glass of wine.

Wine 101

Step 1: Look

As soon as you get your tasting glass, take a look at the wine, and observe the color. Ideally, you’ll want to look at the color of the wine over a light backdrop — whether it’s a white countertop or over a menu/piece of paper. Tilt the glass of wine over the counter/menu. What do you see? How pale or deep is the color? If you’re drinking white wine, is it golden? Amber? Straw? How about your red wine? Is it purple? Ruby? Garnet?

Wine Tasting 101, Early Mountain Vineyards | Wine 101 by popular D.C. lifestyle blogger, Alicia Tenise: image of Alicia Tenise standing outside at a winery and wearing a Eloisa Dress  MISA Los Angeles brand: MISA Los Angeles, Steve Madden Women's Travel Rock Stud Flat Sandals, GOLD DORADO MIYUKI BEADS APPLE WATCH STRAP, and The Sis Kiss It’s All in a Name™ Personalized Necklace while holding a glass of wine.

Step 2: Sniff

Go ahead and take a sniff of your wine. What do you smell? Don’t be so concerned if you have the correct answer or not — you might smell different aromas than the other folks in your party!

You might smell fruit aromas (ex. berries, cherries, plums, citrus, stone fruit), floral, or herb aromas, or you might detect some aromas associated with the way the wine was aged. If the wine is aged in oak, you might pick up on vanilla, clove, or leather aromas.  

Again, don’t worry about being 100% correct here — just take a few sniffs and take a few guesses! 

Wine 101 by popular D.C. lifestyle blogger, Alicia Tenise: image of Alicia Tenise standing outside at a winery and wearing a Eloisa Dress  MISA Los Angeles brand: MISA Los Angeles, Steve Madden Women's Travel Rock Stud Flat Sandals, GOLD DORADO MIYUKI BEADS APPLE WATCH STRAP, and The Sis Kiss It’s All in a Name™ Personalized Necklace while holding a glass of wine.

Step 3: Swirl, then Sniff Again

Ever wonder why people swirl their wine? It’s not to show off: it has a purpose!

Swirling the wine causes the alcohol to evaporate, which helps release the hundreds of different aroma compounds found in wine. Trust me: swirling your wine will make it taste better and elevate your tasting experience! After you’ve swirled, go ahead and taste the wine.

When you first start swirling, I’d highly recommend doing so on a table rather than just swirling with your hand in the air. Also, make sure not to overpour the wine — fill up your glass to the widest point of the glass!

Wine 101 by popular D.C. lifestyle blogger, Alicia Tenise: image of Alicia Tenise standing outside at a winery and wearing a Eloisa Dress  MISA Los Angeles brand: MISA Los Angeles, Steve Madden Women's Travel Rock Stud Flat Sandals, GOLD DORADO MIYUKI BEADS APPLE WATCH STRAP, and The Sis Kiss It’s All in a Name™ Personalized Necklace while holding a glass of wine.

Step 4: Take a Sip!

Ah, finally: time to taste the wine! Take a small sip and let it linger in your mouth for a bit. Some winemakers have taught me to gargle the wine, but to be honest, I dislike that method. One technique that I’ve learned during a tasting is to “chew” your wine — take a sip of the wine, and while it’s in your mouth, bring your jaw up and down like you’re eating food. I love this method because I can get a good idea of the tannins and acidity a wine has!

Keep Track of Your Favorite Wines

One app that I love using to keep track of wines that I like is the Vivino App. You can try the wine, take a picture of the label, and it will automatically pull up that wine in their system, and allow you to leave a review. The more reviews you leave, the more wine recommendations will be generated for you in the app!  

If you’re old school like me, you can also keep a Tasting Journal at home as well. For me, it’s a little more personal, and I can jot my own notes (however good or bad!), and not have to worry about a wine review going public for the world to see.

What did you find most helpful about this wine 101 post?  Do you have any questions?  Let me know in the comments below!

Photos by Tom McGovern

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1 Comments

  1. Jackie Hjelm wrote:

    Especially if the tasting room is crowded, get your pour and step away from the bar! It’s not your local dive or hang out. It’s rude to block everyone else by just standing there.

    If you’re at a winery with vineyards, take a step outside and enjoy the views instead!

    Posted 9.24.20 Reply