The basics of wine tasting

Would you like to know the basics of wine tasting?

You are on the correct article. Why? Because it's an easy to read and straight forward article that includes the basics concepts that you will consider for appreciating and tasting a wine. 

Let's start:

So the first thing you do when you open a bottle of wine is to smell it for avoiding cork taint. If it smells like watered carboard or moldy newspaper, it means that there are chemical compounds known as TCA coming from or through the cork, which reduce the native aromas of the wine.

Also check that the screw cap and cork are in good shape as if they are damaged there is a chance for the oxygen to get into the bottle and affect the wine aroma, taste and color.  

If you don't detect anything strange, you are ready to continue.

You will pay attention to 4 features on the wine: appearance, aromas, palate and finishing.


1) Appearance: you will pay attention to the wine color and it's intensity. It is recommended to use a white background to get a full appreciation of the wine color.

Red wines color could vary from purple, ruby, garnet to tawny, kind of browned color. The most purple, the most fruity they are and less complex. The more brown the older they are. 

White wines color could vary from lemon (the most common), gold and amber. 

Intensity of the color: pale, medium or deep color. This one can be tested looking at your fingers from the other side of the glass. If you cannot see your fingers through the wine, that's indicating that the intensity is deep.


2) Aromas: they are perceived by smelling the wine with your nose  and they are categorized in 3 types. You should swirl the wine for 5-10 secs so it releases it's aromas.

Primary aromas: which are provided by de type of grape varietal. It depends of what type of grape, where the grapes were cultivated, the weather, terroir, the wine could have aromas of tropical fruits for example: apple, pear, lemon in case of a white wine or red/black fruits as red cherry, plum or blackberries in case of a red wine. Some wines could be more herbaceous and also you can detect flowery aromas as blossom, roses for example.

Secondary aromas are associated with the winemaking process. Wines that age in oak barrels will offer a variety of aromas as vanilla, nut, oak, chocolate, etc. You can get buttery or creamy aromas from the malolactic fermentation. Bread or biscuit hints can be detected from lees aging.

Tertiary aromas: when the wine ages in bottle or oak barrels it develops tertiary aromas which are a transformation of primary aromas and secondary aromas, this is fruity aromas converting into dried fruits for example, and secondary aromas provided by the oak could be converted into coffee, walnut or caramel by the process of oxidation.  Other examples of tertiary aromas could be: honey, wet forest floor, meat, dried fruit, leather, earth, tobacco, petrol (gasoline), cinnamon, ginger. 


3) Palate

You will pay attention to 4 main characteristics: sweetness, acidity, tannins, level of alcohol and body 

Sweetness:  you taste that in your palate with your tongue and is the taste of sugars present in the wine. A wine with no/low residual sugar, can be called dry. If the wine has more sugar can be called medium sweet or sweet.

Acidity: this is not what you think it is. As the acidity of the wine increases you will feel a more watered mouth. When the wine is acid you will start to salivate more. This could be frequent in white wines. 

Tannins: what are them, you might wonder.. Tannins are polyphenolic molecules which adds flavor, color and structure to the wine. They are located on the grape's skin, stems and seeds.

Alcohol: the alcohol is sensed as a burning sensation on your throat as you swallow the wine. That warm/burning sensation increases with the percentage of alcohol.  

Body: the body is a mix of the previous components all valued together. The more sweet or acid, more tannins and level of alcohol bring structure and body. A wine can have a light body, a medium body or a full body. 


4) Finishing

The lasting sensation of flavors in your palate it's the finishing of a wine. Less than 12 seconds it's a short finishing wine. Between 12 and 25 seconds it's a medium finishing wine and more than 25 is a long finishing one.


Overall Quality

Finally for concluding the appreciation of the wine we will punctuate the wine based in 4 criteria: balance, finishing, flavor intensity and complexity

Balance: Sugar in wine can be balanced by acidity, Alcohol can be less burniong if there are more fruity flavors to balance it. If a wine has high acidity can be unpleasant without sufficient fruit flavor intensity  to balance the acidity. A wine out of balance is rarely more than acceptable in quality

Finishing: How long are the tasting sensations lasting after the wine has been swallowed or spat out. Wine with shorter finishing will be assessed as lower in quality than those that have a long finish. It's not only about the length but also about the sensation. example: the wine can leave you an unpleasant burning sensation because of high alcohol or too acid or sweet.

Flavor intensity: more intensity of flavors is not necessary meaning higher quality. You can also consider whether the wine tastes how you would expect it to, given the grape variety used and the production methods chosen. It's also about if it possible to distinguish the individual flavors of it, for example: not only red fruits, it's about if you can detect every single fruit aroma: cranberry, red cherry, strawberry as an example.

Complexity: You might say.. complexity, what does that mean? Complexity it's a word to express how many flavors and aromas can be appreciated, the more primary, secondary and tertiary characteristics, the more complex the wine is. However, not all premium wines are complex. The lack of range of different noticeable flavors doesn't mean that the quality of the wine is lower, it could be a wine with pure and defined flavor with no tertiary or secondary characteristics with a premium quality: example: Icewines.


Giving 0,5 or 1 point per criteria, we will qualify a wine from being:

 poor acceptable good very good outstanding 

 A wine with 0 points to 0.5 points it's poor. If it has 1 point is acceptable (it's a balanced wine for example, but poor in aromas and short finishing). If it has at least 2 points is good. 3 points means a very good wine and 4 points means that the wine is outstanding.




For example,

Our Trumpeter Malbec Syrah it's a very good wine. It's balance is excellent as the acidity and sweetness is balanced, also tannins are smoothed by oak aging. In addition it has a medium finish and a high intensity of flavors of black berry, plum provided by the Malbec and the black pepper spiciness of the Syrah  with a medium to low complexity. 

Balance: 1

Finishing: 0.5

Flavor Intensity: 1

Complexity: 0.5

Total: 3 points.

Result: Very good wine

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