Wine Tasting 101

Have you ever tasted a wine and loved it but couldn’t explain why you liked it? It’s like one of those dreams when you're screaming for help, but not making any noise. Frustrating for sure. Below is quick guide to tasting wines with a view to describing them.

Wine tasting terms generally fall into six categories:

Wine Tasting Terms 101


You should always begin tasting a wine by looking at it. Sight can give you many clues about a wine, and should be the first basis on which you form conclusions about a wine. These initial conclusions can later be confirmed using your other senses.

Observations from sight include:  clarity, brightness, color, concentration, viscosity and the presence of carbonation or sediment.


Your sense of smell is probably the most important sense you use to analyze a wine. Humans can differentiate among approximately 10,000 different aromas, while only being able to differentiate between five, maybe six, tastes. Observations from the nose of a wine include fruit and non-fruit aromas and the presence or absence of wood.

Fruit and Non Fruit Aromas in Wine

Sweetness Level

After you’ve observed a wine’s appearance and aromas, it’s time to taste the wine. On your palate, you’ll be able to confirm or reject your initial conclusions from your sight and nose, including its fruit and non-fruit tastes and the presence or absence of wood.

From our observations of sight, smell and taste, you should have had a perception of the relative sweetness of the wine. Remember, the sweetness of a wine is subjective and determined not only by the amount of residual sugar of the wine, but also the interaction of the residual sugar with the levels of alcohol, acid and tannin in the wine. The chart below summarizes the sweetness of a wine in terms of residual sugar.

Wine Residual Sugar Chart


The structure of a wine refers to the relationship between its acidity, its alcohol content and its tannins. Structure doesn’t describe the flavors of a wine, but can provide a clue as to its aging potential. Wines with good structure are much more likely to age better than wines without good structure.


A wine’s finish is the assessment of how longs it lingers in your mouth. This assessment is measured in terms of time. The flavors of a wine with a long finish will linger in your mouth long after the wine is gone. Wines of higher quality generally have longer finishes than wines of lesser quality.

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