Wine Tasting for Beginners

A photo of Apatsagi wine and two wine glasses
If you are new to wine tasting, it can feel like a foreign and intimidating world. There is a wide variety of wines and tasters that each have their own language when it comes to describing wines.

If you are new to wine tasting, it can feel like a foreign and intimidating world. There is a wide variety of wines and tasters that each have their own language when it comes to describing wines. However, with a little knowledge, you can become an expert taster and discover which wines are your favorites. Whether you happen to swing by an in-store wine sampling or visit to a winery for a full-scale tasting experience, you can follow this wine tasting guide for beginners to prepare for your first tasting.

Basic Steps to Wine Tasting  

Wine tasting uses all the senses to experience the wine and enjoy the unique flavors of each bottle. The five basic steps of wine tasting are: see, swirl, sniff, sip and savor, otherwise known as the five S. This approach is designed to look for complexity, clarity, connective, expressiveness, integration and varietal character. Taking your time to experience all the different aspects of the wine helps create a richer experience.

Fundamentals of Wine Tasting  

Why Wine Tasters Spit   

There are some common wine tasting practices that you should be aware of. First, if you are going to be doing several tastings throughout the day, it is essential to expectorate the wine. While this might sound a little strange, it allows you to enjoy the feel and flavor of the wine without overindulging. A standard tasting pour is 2-3 ounces and roughly 10 tastings add up to a full bottle of wine, so it can be easy to get carried away. Spitting means that you can taste more wines without ending up with a headache the next day.

Tipping at a Wine Tasting  

Most wineries offer free tastings to help market their products. However, it is always a good idea to leave a tip. This is especially true if you have received excellent service and enjoyed an extensive tasting that went beyond the fixed list provided. Large groups should also leave a generous tip for services. 

Planning a Tasting  

If you are planning a day or a trip around wine tasting, you can expect to spend around 30-45 minutes at each winery. That leaves a great deal of time to visit 3-4 during a day. Each winery will provide a different experience, so it will not feel repetitive as you visit different locations and see what they have to offer.

Wine and Cheese Pairings  

It is also common practice for wineries to offer cheese plates to accompany their wines. Wine tends to be more acidic, which is balanced out by the fattiness or cheese. Combining these opposing foods provides pleasant taste and feel in the mouth. 

How to Describe Wine  

There are some basic terms that are used to describe wine that will help you enjoy your tasting. The smell of wine is described as aroma or bouquet. Typically, bouquet is used to refer to older wine. The body of a wine describes the perceived weight of the wine in your mouth, which correlates to the alcohol content. A crisp wine is one that has a refreshing level of acidity. You will hear others use these descriptors and you can incorporate them into your own language as you become a wine tasting expert.

Different Types of Wine  

There are a wide variety of wines based on the type of grape and the region of the world where it is produced, but you do not have to worry about all the specifics right away. To get started, all you need to know are the four basic types of wine.

  1. White wines: chardonnay, riesling, pinot grigio, moscato, chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc.
  2. Red wines: pinot noir, merlot, syrah and cabernet sauvignon. 
  3. Sparkling wines
  4. Rose

Get to know these different types of wine and then you can dive into greater detail when it comes to trying more varieties. You may even want to invest in wine club software to stay up-to-date on your favorite wine brands.

Wine tasting can be a fun experience to share with friends. If you have never done it before, there is no need to be intimidated. A little knowledge can go a long way in helping you get the most out of your tasting.


What are the steps to wine tasting? 

When it comes to wine tasting, there are five basic steps known as the five S: see, swirl, sniff, sip, savor. This process is meant to help identify the clarity, complexity, connective, integration, expressiveness and varietal character of each wine.

Are you supposed to spit out wine at wine tasting? 

Yes, if you are going to be tasting numerous wines, you want to be able to get a sense of the characteristics of each wine without overindulging. Just be sure to spit with enough force so that you don’t end up with wine on your chin.

How would you describe the taste of wine?

Common terms used to describe wine include bouquet or aroma. Typically, bouquet is used when describing the smell of older wines. Body refers to the “weight” of the wine as it sits in your mouth. This usually directly correlates to alcohol content. Finally, crisp is used to describe wine with a refreshing level of acidity.

What are the four types of wine?

There are four types of wine: 1) White which includes moscato, pinot grigio, riesling, chardonnay, chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc. 2) Red wines including merlot, syrah, cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir. 3) Sparkling wines. 4) Rose.

Do you tip at wine tastings?

Numerous wineries offer free tastings so that you can sample their products and purchase the wines you like best. However, it is always a good idea to leave a tip, especially if you are in a big group, received excellent service or enjoyed an extensive tasting.

How much wine is served at a wine tasting?

A typical pour for a tasting is 2-3 ounces or 75-90 ml. There are roughly 10 taste servings in a bottle of wine.

How long does a wine tasting last?

While it depends on the winery, you can expect a tasting to last about 30-45 minutes. This means that you can easily make a day of it and visit 3-4 wineries to enjoy the different experiences and flavors at each location.

Why do you eat cheese with wine? 

Wine tends to have an acidic flavor that is opposite from fatty cheese. This combination engages different taste buds and creates a more balanced feel.



One Response

  1. I like that you talked about how fun private wine tours would be if we go with friends, especially when we haven’t done them before. Because of that, I will book a tour like that this summer and pay for everything. Then I will invite my friends, because I know that not one of us have ever gone on that kind of trip, so this is the perfect way to catch up on each other.

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