Wine 101: Tasting Wine

A beginner's guide to tasting wine

 


Well, it certainly has taken a long time to get here. But after reviewing important topics such as the correct wine serving temperature, the best glassware to use, and whether to decant or not -- it’s time to start drinking!

I believe wine captivates the mind so much because it's such a sensual drink. It offers up luxurious colors of the rainbow from ruby to gold, and all manner of shades in between. The aromas knit together glorious remembrances from our youth with all the details of our accumulated experiences. And the taste, well -- it's like a trip down a magical river. Each moment offers something new, and as a bottle is emptied it leads us on a wonderful journey.

So, how does one get the most out of each glass of wine? Well, it’s really quite simple, so grab a glass and follow along with this Snooth Wine 101 video as we taste like a pro!

About the Author

Gregory Dal Piaz is a proponent and admirer of a broad range of wines and styles. During his decades of collecting and tasting he has discovered that a wine need not cost a fortune to drink well. Feel free to ask him questions at the Snooth Forums where he regularly engages with beginners and experts alike.

Two tricks of the trade

A Good Swirl
Swirling wine helps to release all its complex perfumes. If you have a good glass, swirling is easy, especially once you get the hang of it. Check out our short video for a tip to get you started.

UC Davis Aroma Wheel
The UC Davis aroma wheel is an indispensible tool to help you discover and identify what you smell and taste in a wine. These can be purchased directly from the school.

Well, I’m sure you’ve heard it all before, but let's go through the steps of wine appreciation. Take away as much or as little as you feel is necessary here. As you might guess, I am not always so diligent in my wine appreciation. In fact, as I have mentioned before, I can often be found drinking wine out of tumblers, since it seems like the only way for me to avoid being completely diligent! Give me water in a wine glass and you’ll find that I am inadvertently swirling and sniffing!

Ready. Set. Appreciate!

You only need about 2 ounces of wine, hopefully in a 10 ounce or larger bowl, to get the most out of your wine. By pouring a modest amount you are able to discern colors more accurately and can really get the wine oxygenated quickly, allowing all the hidden aromas to appear.

1.) Take a Look

The first step in assessing a wine is to check out its color. Do this by placing the glass over a white surface and tipping the wine until you can see through the entire glass. Do not try and asses the color by holding it up to a light, as this will just allow any background color, including the color of the light bulb, to influence the wine’s color.

This is probably the least important step, and I rarely include comments about the color of a wine in my notes. Why? Well, primarily because it does little to convey anything meaningful about the wine. Some people like super-extracted dark wines, and for something like a Petite Sirah I would expect it. On the other hand, for a Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo, it fills me with concern, as these are naturally lightly-colored wines. I suppose one might be able to infer something about the style of wine by knowing the color, but the rest of my notes generally cover that ground, so adding a bit of information about a wine’s color doesn’t seem that important to me.

One thing that is important when checking out a wine’s color is to note its stage of development. As a wine ages, it loses pigment and what pigment remains generally takes on a brownish hue. If I see this change happening in a young wine, it’s worth mentioning as it can indicate issues with the wine, or bottle closure.


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Comments

  • Snooth User: whsouthworth
    Hand of Snooth
    88034 10

    The quality of the video is so horrible that the whole thing is not worth watching. Poor lighting, atrocious sound, unsteady camera, poor color balance, and bad shots (head chopped off etc). You broke pretty much every rule in the book.

    Jul 07, 2010 at 1:38 PM


  • Snooth User: raele
    521267 15

    I agree with previous poster. Quality vids signal a professional, worthwhile site. I applaud the lack of snobbery on Snooth.com, but down-to-earth doesn't have to equal down on form. When a site has bright, snappy, engaging videos, that are brief but informative, I can stay for a couple of hours, browsing around. I'm afraid that won't be happening at Snooth.com today!

    Jul 07, 2010 at 2:08 PM


  • Snooth User: philk1
    461967 25

    Puhleeease improve on the audio quality, there is way too much echoing. The video quality would, IMHO, be tolerable if the audio was better. You've got a great web site with fantastic content. Don't cheapen it by skimping on your vids. Thanks.

    Jul 07, 2010 at 2:21 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 211,292

    Well thanks for the feedback.

    We're just trying to get our feet wet here. Truth is I was just going to video the swirling, trying to show people it's easy to get started with one's glass on the table.

    I guess we'll hold off awhile before adding additional videos, helpful as the information might be, and see about following these rules more closely.

    Jul 07, 2010 at 2:22 PM


  • Snooth User: philk1
    461967 25

    I get it, but the quality of the media should never get in the way of the message it seeks to present, lest the message be lost.

    I truly hope you do put forth quality vids in the future. It will add a wonderful dimension to this delightful site.

    Jul 07, 2010 at 2:51 PM


  • Snooth User: knarf
    102339 1

    The presentation is the best that I have seen in that it does not treat the audience as grape pickers at the chateau. It's informative and comprehensive, but the audio is horrible!!! Please abate that flaw and you have our undivided attention !!!!

    Jul 07, 2010 at 3:03 PM


  • Snooth User: rowdygirl
    497630 1

    As a newbie, I really appreciate what you do. Yes, the audio was hard to understand, but it wasn't the end of my world. I got the impression that the room you were in has an echo all of the time, because it's so empty. Add some curtains, carpet, or padded furniture before the next taping and see if it improves.
    It was good info, and I didn't have to pay $ for it. Thanks! Please keep educating me.

    Jul 07, 2010 at 5:23 PM


  • Snooth User: joeshep
    193640 1

    If I had a wine of the same quality as this video, I would soak cucumbers in it for 3-5 days and then flush the whole mess.

    Jul 07, 2010 at 6:04 PM


  • Snooth User: habap
    231854 12

    I had done some video of a trip to Normandy that I thought was pretty good. It was actually terrible in much the same ways this one is. I bought a tripod, which helped immensely by reducing the unsteadiness and allowing the viewer to concentrate on the speaker. Sadly, the sound quality failed in the wind. So, now I have a directional mic. Sadly, you have to spend money and time to get it right. That said, I think if you were to go back to your original thought (just the swirling) and make the shot more static (have the camera on top of books on the table, with only the glass in-frame, not you) and it a less echo-chambered room, then it would be better. Just an idea.

    Jul 07, 2010 at 6:15 PM


  • Snooth User: maud130
    228715 51

    It's hard to disagree with both the critiques of the video and the general affection for Snooth.
    Also, you can purchase the wine aroma wheel directly from the author(Ann Noble) at winearomawheel.com.
    She ships for less the Davis, so it will cost less and it's always cool to go to the source.

    Jul 07, 2010 at 6:55 PM


  • Snooth User: raele
    521267 15

    Well, I'm rather impressed to have gotten personal feedback so quickly to my complaint. There is definitely a "friends around the table" feel to this site, and contrary to what I expected, I did end up spending a good deal of time browsing the site, despite poor video quality.
    And I've gotta say, all in all, I love it. I tried another wine site before this one, but it seemed too ridiculous for me to even browse within, such was the rarefied feel of it. I think I have finally found a place where I can learn more about the wines I love, and learn to love ones I don't know about, while becoming more conversant in general wine-speak. It's easy to feel you belong here. Someday I'll be saying, "Oh, I knew Snooth.com back WHEN!"
    I'll stick around in expectation of more good coming to the site in future. Kudos so far!

    Jul 07, 2010 at 6:59 PM


  • Snooth User: lucto
    431302 108

    I'd like to answer Gregory's question in the text:
    One of the grapes in question would be Syrah. Second (very) probably something from Corvina/Molinara/Rondinella trio.
    Correct?

    Jul 07, 2010 at 7:58 PM


  • Snooth User: Hliguori1
    369824 11

    Thank you! Now let's drink and enjoy!

    Jul 07, 2010 at 8:31 PM


  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 7,359

    The videos are an evolving process, and I'm sure Greg and Snooth will get it right as time goes on and they focus more effectively on some fundamental techniques. The content is most important, of course, so let's not let too much get in its way.

    My guess about the "blackberry, leather, game, and pepper" is a little less precise than Lucto's. I get the blackberry, leather and pepper from several varietals: syrah, petit syrah, grenache and C9dP blends, amongst others, especially blends. But I really only get that gaminess from malbec and mourvedre...

    Jul 07, 2010 at 8:50 PM


  • Snooth User: summersub
    504388 1

    I enjoyed your video very much. While I have done my share of tasting in So Cal's Temecula Valley and the Central coast in Paso Robles it's all good. The message in your video was done in good spirit. Thanks!

    Jul 07, 2010 at 9:04 PM


  • Snooth User: Hliguori1
    369824 11

    How far back does the art of wine tasting go? Was it always so sophisticated? I'd be interested in learning about the history/

    Jul 07, 2010 at 9:09 PM


  • Snooth User: Hliguori1
    369824 11

    I think I found the answer. Check out:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wine_t...

    Jul 07, 2010 at 9:14 PM


  • Snooth User: NanaSandy
    465976 2

    Thanks for educating us in a non-intimidating/non-snobbish way...don't worry about the sound on the video...we still got it! thanks!

    Jul 07, 2010 at 10:03 PM


  • I appreciated the videos, but yes, they need a little more forethought (or better technology) next time. But the CONTENT is fabulous. I'm loving the whole 101 series. I'm new to living in wine country (Santa Ynez Valley) and this is very helpful, so I don't seem like a complete neophyte (altho' I pretty much am!).

    Thanks, Gregory and Snooth Team. You rock!

    Jul 07, 2010 at 10:59 PM


  • Snooth User: rjames123
    525919 1

    The content is great but the production, as mentioned, leaves a little to be desired. It's not hard to do a good video with good sound for little money or effort. I'll be glad to advise and help gratis from afar if needed.

    Ron James
    Multimedia/Wine Guru
    http://wineandfoodguy.com

    Jul 08, 2010 at 12:13 AM


  • Snooth User: rmbennew8
    477041 1

    You know,.. I guess I just don't get it.... This is meant to be a brief instructional video, not an epic movie... I think that for the purpose which this was intended,... great job! I am a newbie to wine and find that this type of instruction is just right... Lets learn a little bit at a time as we learn to enjoy wines!! Great job!! Let the video snobs drink vinegar!! lol

    Jul 08, 2010 at 1:02 AM


  • Snooth User: jamessulis
    Hand of Snooth
    426220 1,500

    Hello-ello-llo-o
    The sound was so annoying that I couldn't finish watching the video which I believe was made with good intentions featuring the wonderful Mr. Dal Piaz. The ECHO was not condusive to watching the pictorial. I thought I was in the Swiss Alps listening to someone hollering out the benefits of wine across the valley. I'm sure it will be easy to fix by previewing it prior to posting (that's called Quality Control). Sorry, not acceptable by anyones standard.
    I wait in anticipation of the next video.

    Lefty - The Great Pacific Northwest

    Jul 08, 2010 at 1:42 AM


  • Well, I haven't bothered to watch the video yet after reading the comments above, but I love the way that Greg handles the criticism, he's a class act! This Wine 101 series has been informative as much for the comments as the original postings.

    Jul 08, 2010 at 2:22 AM


  • Snooth User: gyuoolbee
    514382 4

    I absolutely agree with "rmbennew8". This is a very informative video for someone new to wine like myself and I greatly appreciated Mr. Dal Piaz's efforts in posting a video clip. One picture may be worth 1000 words, but I think 1 video is always better than 10 pictures with descriptions.

    Besides, I thought this is a free site WITHOUT any membership fees. Instead of complaining, why can't people just say a simple "thanks" for Greg's time. If you still insist in complaining of the video quality, please do so AFTER posting a "better" instructional video clip yourself!!

    Jul 08, 2010 at 3:30 AM


  • Snooth User: lucto
    431302 108

    @dmcker:
    seems that Syrah is sure. I like rest of Your guesses - everything but blackberry fits in my experience. My second guess is quite opposite from yours - includes blackberry only.
    Please tell me, what "C9dp blend" is?

    Jul 08, 2010 at 5:37 AM


  • Snooth User: NanaSandy
    465976 2

    What are anyone's thoughts on the Cab from the former SanSaba winery? (California)

    Jul 08, 2010 at 7:18 AM


  • Although I agree with the majority of viewers, I was also pleasantly pleased by the alternative links and suggestions offered in the commentary.

    Snoot is a great reference site and I always appreciate recommendations for very good, inexpensive wines, as I am a retired person who enjoys wine but has a limited budget.

    Ciao

    Jul 08, 2010 at 8:22 AM


  • It's not going to win any oscars but then it was never intended for that. Sure it could do with some TLC and I'm sure that will come with time ... but it was useful and informative all the same.
    Gets my vote.

    Jul 08, 2010 at 10:47 AM


  • Snooth User: whsouthworth
    Hand of Snooth
    88034 10

    Good video and audio doesn't require a big investment. Here are a couple links to web videos that I've done using a Panasonic consumer camera (http://vimeo.com/6263197 and http://vimeo.com/11787160.) Find a fairly bright location with good lighting, especially avoiding florescent lights. Have the camera on a tripod and preferably use a lavelier or at an off-camera microphone. Think about color balance and what the whole seen looks like. And get in close. Web images are typically pretty small.

    Your content is great, but having it shot well would make all the difference in the world. Since you are in Manhattan, you should be able to find dozens of good shooters who'd help out for an occasional bottle of wine.

    Jul 08, 2010 at 10:49 AM


  • Snooth User: Philip James
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    1 12,549

    Hey - Philip James, CEO and Founder of Snooth, here. Just wanted to say, thanks for the feedback, we're really lucky to work via a medium that allows us to interact with and hear our audience immediately.

    Video is a new feature for us, and we're getting better at it. Thanks to your feedback we now have a tripod, and a microphone. We still need to work on the sound dampening of the room (its a new office, and sparsely decorated), but you should be able to expect better quality moving forward.

    Thanks again
    Philip

    Jul 08, 2010 at 1:35 PM


  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 7,359

    Philip, good start, but you'll need to also focus on a few more techniques, as well. Like framing, lighting, a little tighter editing, how to express the presence of the camera and even (not in this case but in some of Greg's past interviews with winemakers), making the interviewer a visible part of the process, etc., etc. Nothing rocket science, but a few practical steps will make the experience more pleasant for the viewer and effective for Snooth. Ideally you'll have someone in the office good at using even simple film production SW at some point.

    Lucto, there are other varietals with a couple of those elements (tempranillo, mostly gaminess but maybe another one or two in pinotage, etc.) but looking for all four together is a problem, especially regarding that gaminess. I don't get it in syrah. C9dP is my shorthand for Chateauneuf du Pape....

    Jul 08, 2010 at 4:08 PM


  • Snooth User: CataVinos
    Hand of Snooth
    359564 3

    Geez, it doesn't matter what you do there is always someone out there quick to point out what you do wrong instead of focusing on what you do right or recognizing your intention. Lighten up, he's doing a great job, just trying to cut out a decent life for himself much like the rest of us in this world. Can't we all focus more on the positive and the less than perfect will, over time, work out for the better?

    Jul 08, 2010 at 4:50 PM


  • Thank you Gregory! Very informative, and very much appreciated.

    Jul 09, 2010 at 12:25 AM


  • Snooth User: turbalejo
    527688 1

    Nice job. Video with headphones was just fine. Cheers.

    Jul 09, 2010 at 4:14 PM


  • Snooth.com is a great informative and refined resource with user friendly access. I very much enjoy the wine 101 series and hope you continue it along with your videos. I'm sure the technical video production issues will be worked out quickly and satisfyingly. Please keep up the great presentations and tutelage as they have nurtured my education and development as an enthused wine appreciator!

    Jul 12, 2010 at 4:22 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 211,292

    Thanks Melissa, we working on it and will just have to bring you even better presentations! One is coming soon!

    Jul 18, 2010 at 11:18 AM


  • I work in Television as a Sound Engineer and what you need for indoors (and out!) is a Lavalier clip mic on a radio transmitter. This would eliminate almost all of the echo associated with filming in an empty room (!). If more than one person is involved it gets more complicated but essentially if you have one host addressing the camera this should do the trick.
    Good luck!

    Jul 23, 2010 at 5:31 AM


  • By the way - Carpeting or rugs work wonders with the echoing. Having produced industrial films in the early part of my working life and having done so in some pretty unforgiving places, I can honestly say that carpet is a good friend of those shooting video on the fly. I've used it for back drops, sound blimping, set decoration, wind screens and a host of other things. That and duct tape and you are in business.

    Jul 28, 2010 at 5:18 PM


  • Snooth User: colleen51
    370778 9

    I love Snooth and the Wine 101 series and am thoroughly enjoying all the articles and videos. I just got back from a trip to Temecula where I visited several wineries. I've been drinking wine for many years but only within the last few years have really come to appreciate its complexities. Your articles are very informative. Keep up the good work!

    Aug 06, 2010 at 12:45 AM


  • ooohhhh I'm sick from watching this video... it's like a rollercoaster without the thrill.

    Aug 10, 2011 at 6:45 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 211,292

    LOL! it's on the short list of things to redo as soon as our camera comes back from a month long project.

    Sorry for the crappy quality. I promise we'll do better!

    Aug 10, 2011 at 7:09 PM


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