Tasting Week 1: Taste

The final step in tasting is to actually taste! During one tasting class I was told to take a tiny sip first, followed by a larger sip where you swirl the wine to coat your mouth. For me, swirling the wine in my mouth doesn’t seem to help much, but taking a tiny sip first, followed by a larger taste, does help to cleanse and prepare my palate.


Taste and smell are inextricably linked. Flavors that you taste, such as lemon, coffee, oak, etc., are all just the smells you get when the wine is in your mouth. Taste itself is the reaction your tongue has to sweet, sour, bitter salty and umami. When tasting a wine, you want to focus on the reaction to your tongue more so than the flavor.

Here’s what I look for when tasting a wine:

  • Sweet: 1-5 scale of the sweetness of the wine. 0-1 I often use for a perception of sweetness, like a honey flavor or profile, without actually being sweet. Sweetness in wine is identified immediately after taking a sip.
  • Sour: 1-5 scale of how acidic is the wine. Are you almost puckering due to the high level of acid? Sourness will often linger long after you’ve finished the taste.
  • Bitter: 1-5 scale of if the wine is bitter. Bitterness is the hardest for me to pick out in part because I love bitterness, but reminds me of the bite of a bitter tea or coffee. I typically also taste this near the back of my mouth.
  • Salty: 1-5 scale of how salty the wine is. Most wine is not salty, but when you find one that is, it’s worth noting!
  • Astringency: 1-5 scale of the astringency of the wine. Astringency is linked to the tannins in the wine, which dry out your mouth. It most reminds me of the feeling after licking a banana peel and it can last looong after you have drunk the wine.
  • Alcohol: 1-5 scale on if you can taste the alcohol in the wine. Alcohol will taste hot and often you’ll feel this towards the back of your throat.
  • Viscosity: 1-5 scale on how viscous is the wine. Does it feel thick in your mouth or is it incredibly light?
  • Length: 1-5 scale for how long after you finish the taste do the above factors linger in your mouth.
  • Intensity/Body: 1-5 scale on the concentration of the wine. Is it a light bodied wine or more full bodied?
  • Texture: Short description of if the wine is smooth or course. More astringent wines tend to feel rough.
  • Effervescence: 0-5 scale with a short description of any effervescence in the wine. Champagne, for example, usually has a creamy texture whereas Prosecco has more biting bubbles.
  • Smell: Short list of any flavors associated with the smell of the wine in the taste.

I realize that’s a lot to process about one taste, so it may take a few sips! Here are some examples from recent wines I’ve tried:

Summit Winery, Sangiovese 2017

  • Sweet: 0
  • Sour: 4
  • Bitter: 2
  • Salty: 0
  • Astringency: 5
  • Alcohol: 3
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Length: 5 – due to astringency
  • Intensity/Body: 4 – due to astringency
  • Texture: Incredibly rough
  • Effervescence: 0
  • Smell: –

When writing less detailed descriptions, I may only need to note what stands out. In this example, I’d say: HIGH astringency, sourness, and bitterness

Chateau Moncontour Vouvray Sec 

  • Sweet: 1 – a perception of sweetness
  • Sour: 1
  • Bitter: 0
  • Salty: 0
  • Astringency: 0
  • Alcohol: 3
  • Viscosity: 3
  • Length: 2 – due to sweetness
  • Intensity/Body: 4 – medium body
  • Texture: Round
  • Effervescence: 0
  • Smell: honey, from sweetness

Now you’re ready to taste some wine!

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