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How to taste wine like a pro (well, almost)

Wine tasters may seem to engage with wine in a very specific (and often strange) way, but they aren’t doing so to be pretentious. There are reasons behind the rituals; let us break it down for you.

By Roxy Greeff


The first thing you should do upon receiving your glass of wine is to hold it up to the light and take a good look; it should be clear and not cloudy. Just by doing this, if you can believe it, you are able to roughly tell how old a bottle is.

A young white will have a pale straw colour, sometimes tinged with green. As it ages, it will become a light gold, then a deeper gold and, finally, a beautifully rich amber.

Young reds have a youthful purple hue; this colour evolves slowly through a ruby red, finally settling on a deep brick red.


Did you know that swirling the wine around in the glass will release the natural aromas of the vintage. Take a deep sniff, making sure the scent isn’t musty – this means the wine has spoiled, often due to bacteria growing on the underside of the cork. It is perfectly within your rights to reject and send back a ‘corked’ wine.

Have a bit of fun and tell your drinking companions the first thing that comes to mind when you take that first sniff (assuming it isn’t corked). An experienced wine drinker will know exactly what grape variety the wine is made from at this step. Shiraz often smells like smoky leather, Chardonnay like caramel or lime, Cabernet Sauvignon like blackberries, Sauvignon like gooseberries and grass, and Chenin Blanc (my personal favourite) like apple or honey.


Yes, we know you’ve been waiting. You can taste it now. Don’t just sip and swallow. Take the time to swirl that first mouthful around; if it’s too dry or sweet for you to do this and enjoy it, it’s not the wine for you.

A great wine should be complex – it shouldn’t just taste like grapes or grape juice if you are drinking natural sweet. It should have a balanced combination of acidity, freshness, sweetness and astringency. Experts say that it’s hard to describe, but you’ll know it when you experience it.

Once you have swallowed (or spit, if you are at a professional tasting), the taste should linger on the palate in a pleasant way. And here’s the catch, the longer the flavour lingers, the better quality you’re getting for your money, so it’s a handy detail to pay attention to.


The most important thing to remember here is that just like different people like different things, not everyone will enjoy the same wine, and some might not like it at all. Don’t always feel like you have to listen to experts or the sommelier at the restaurant who is making a recommendation.

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