Evaluating Wine - THEGRAPE

Grape Tips Thursday – October 8, 2015: 5 Steps To Evaluating Wine: The Pre-Drink Ritual

This Week In Wine 101: 5 Steps To Evaluating Wine

There are 5 basic steps in the pre-drink ritual of evaluating wine. Think of them as foreplay before enjoying the sensual pleasures of every grape you sample. These steps will help navigate the way through selecting wines that appeal to your senses. They are: Color, Swirl, Smell, Taste and Savor. Below are more detailed descriptions for each step of wines pre-drink ritual.


The coloration or clarity of wine can indicate a number of characteristics. For instance, color can determine the age, types of grapes used or even how the wine was produced. However, wine color perceptions vary and it’s quite common for people to have different interpretations of a wine’s color.

When a wine is first poured, begin by tipping the glass to a 450 angle. You’re looking for color density. For example, is the wine thin, watery, thick, or syrupy? Red wines vary from ruby to brown, whereas white wines will have a soft-yellow greenish tint that can become a yellow gold as it matures. So, the next time your enjoying a glass of wine, place the glass up against a white background or napkin and see what colors you discover in your glass.

And remember, there is no right or wrong answer when discerning a wine’s color. Perceptions of wine are completely subjective.


When swirling your glass of wine make sure you’re holding the glass by the base or stem and swirl in a semi fast-paced circular motion. Swirling of the wine unlocks the aromas and bouquets, which is referred to as, oxygenating. Letting air in. However, be careful, oxygen can be a wine’s best friend and worst enemy. While the right amount of oxygen can bring out the aromas and sensual scents, too much oxygen can produce a sour and vinegar like aftertaste. Remember, wine is fragile.


This is one of the most essential components of evaluating a wine because it reveals an abundance of aromas and scents. After swirling or oxygenating the wine, don’t be shy about taking in the various scents. Express what you smell. Place your nose over or into the glass to distinguish the fragrances. In fact, some experts recommend swirling the wine a couple of times while placing your hand over the glass.

Each time, you may find yourself discovering something new. For example, the first time you swirl your wine you might smell strong tones of alcohol, acidity, fruits or citrus. Whereas, the second or third time you may pick up other scents like: vanilla, oak, earthly spices or sweet undertones.


We are best able to perceive four tastes or types of taste: Sweet, Sour, Salty and Bitter. Since salt is not used in wine we can omit this from the wine tasting experience completely.

When you take your first sip of wine, let your tongue absorb the flavors. Don’t just take a gulp and swallow. Instead, let the wine fizzle and absorb in your mouth. Let it settle on your tongue for several seconds. This allows your taste buds to articulate various features of the wine. Overall, the process of tasting wine is to help you discover your palate, style and preferences.


Once you’ve tasted the wine, savor it. Appreciate it. Savoring a wine is usually followed by some thought provoking questions. For instance:

  • What was your first impression of the wine?
  • What types of aromas did you pick up?
  • Do you prefer red, rose or white wines?
  • Are there particular wines you appreciate more than others and why?
  • Was the wine light, medium or full-bodied?
  • White wines tend to have more acidity. How would you measure the acidity?
  • Did the wine leave a dry after-taste?
  • Was the wine ready to drink?
  • What foods, appetizers or meals would this wine complement?
  • Was the wine worth the price?

After evaluating, you’ll be able to decide whether or not it suits your palate. Once you discover which wines you love, you may find yourself wanting to learn more about the origins and history of wine, how it was made, which grapes were used and what region it was grown and nurtured in. So, next time you’ll have a good sense of what you liked or didn’t like. But most important, learn and trust your palate. Don’t just take thegrape.com’s word for it. Try it yourself. Cheers!

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