Sharing a bottle of white wine between many ISO tasting glasses

Wine Tasting Tips

Some people have yet to encounter a wine that knocks their socks off. If this is you, keep trying new things, as that's the surest way to come across one! There are certainly plenty of thrilling wines out there, just waiting to be discovered.

Like all the best things we appreciate, to be fully enjoyed, you've got to pay attention to what's in the glass. Nobody can taste for you; you can't tell if you like something until you try it.

To make the most of the experience when trying a wine for the first time, I'd suggest thinking about the following points: -

1. Glass

Get a decent sized, preferably tulip shaped glass - narrower at the top than the bottom, allowing room to swirl the wine in the bottom and "nose" it. If you can't get your nose in, you're missing out! 

2. Wine temperature

As a rule of thumb, reds are best served at room temperature, although clearly in generations past the rooms would have been a lot cooler, so its fine to err on the side of slightly cooler. If your red wine is too warm you may find that spirity / alcoholic fumes become apparent which reduces the chance of you picking up the nuances in the scent of the wine. 

For all the rest - whites, fizz and rose - go for chilled but not cold. Common practice is to keep whites in a cold fridge, but you'd be amazed how much flavour is lost when tasting something that is numbingly cold.

3. Sniff

Now the wine's in the glass, what do you do? First, pause, and don't drink it, smell it. Really? Right. Focussing on a wine is unusual behaviour for most of us. (I remember it felt odd, even pointless or poncey, to start with!) By concentrating on smelling the wine, you'll actually unlock a whole new element to its taste when you take a sip. Can you pick out the scent of herbs, or something more floral or even fruit characters?

4. Taste

Finally, take a good sip. Then allow it to move around your mouth, particularly over the different parts of your tongue. I find that allowing a little air in can enhance my ability to pick out different flavours. Don't be scared to gargle!

This may be the only time you'll ever taste this wine so pay it some attention. Use your own terms to describe it to yourself. The tastes and smells you may pick out could be virtually anything under the sun - you may be surprised! I've often thought that jotting down a few notes about a wine when I try it keeps its memory more alive and allows me to build more of an understanding of what I might expect from a similar grape or region in the future.

If you can refer back to these next time you try a similar wine, you'll be on the path towards building your own personal wine guide, totally individual to you, to assist you in picking out wines more to your own taste.

Big doesn't always mean better

In my experience, big brands don't always guarantee better juice! We know that the bigger brands spend more on marketing their products and need to ensure larger quantities are available to supply the market, which can sometimes lead to more industrial processes and less individual care for the product. I would often choose a small grower Champagne over one of the big names.

Price isn't everything

Try as many wines as you get a chance to and you'll become a better taster, recognising quality and the care taken in making good wines. The quality of the wine isn't always determined by its cost; there are awful wines that are pricey and thrillers under £15!

I'd also recommend taking advice from a trustworthy source. When embarking on a journey into wine, it's really helpful to try wines that are known to be a good example of what they are to make the most of assessing the merits of a particular grape or region, such as the specific character of a red Rioja or a Cotes du Rhone. More industrial examples (made as cheaply as possible) would be unlikely to exhibit the real character of this or that region.

Make the most of wine tasting opportunities

If you have the chance to try a new wine, take it! I really do think that the more wines you try, the easier it becomes to pick out the subtle beauties and to enjoy the taste experience more.

If you'd like to try some new wines on us, why not join us at one of our in-store tastings? Popular with existing customers, we often show our newest discoveries and wines that are deservedly staff favourites!

Blog post by Des Tinline

Tara, Des and Paul wine tasting in A&H Harrogate 2017

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