Wine Tastings 101

Wine Tastings 101

Beginner tips for wine tasting success without being intimidated.

Wine tasting tips for the common man are becoming….well…more common. When you sit with friends to enjoy a bottle of wine many seldom think about its fragrance, tannins, or how it finishes. We are usually more concerned with whether we like the taste of the wine or not. You will soon learn, wine tasting is much more complex than you realize. Learning about them, however, is much less intimidating than you may think. Really!

With these wine tasting tips for beginners, a couple of friends, and a trip to a local winery, you are well on your way to becoming an educated wine consumer.

1. Ask Questions

When attending a wine tasting, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions! Let the staff know of your likes and dislikes, so they can properly cater to the wine tasting to you. Drinking the wine you do not enjoy will be a waste of your time and money.


Take a moment to look at the wine in your glass. Wine has an amazing array of colors across its many variations. Tilt the glass and look where to top edge of the wine meets the glass. Noticing the color can communicate a lot about the wine… or white, old or new, sweet or dry. Before sampling be sure to take a look.


Before you take a sip, hold your glass up to your nose and deeply inhale. Pay close attention and see what images flash through your brain. Listen to the staff or wine professional at your tasting and they will give you hints of what you may smell. Many wines will contain smells of different fruit, flowers, spices, vegetables, and even chocolate and leather. Each variety of wine has its distinct aromas that are clues as to what variety of grapes was used to produce it and how that wine was aged.


This step can become pretty complicated so make sure to follow the directions of the wine professional leading your wine tasting. Tasting the wine involves much more than taking a sip and swallowing. The staff may instruct you to take a sip of wine, swish it in your mouth and then spit it out. This is the best way to notice the complexities of the wine. With the first sip, you will detect if the wine is sweet or dry. The sweetness of the wine cannot be determined through smell. With this sip, you will be able to determine the texture of the wine. Does the wine feel heavy or light, velvety smooth or harsh, flat or bubbly? This is the “body” of the wine. The next step is to notice the “length” of the wine. After spitting the wine out or swallowing a sip, notice how long the taste stays on your palate and your nose. Take note whether this aftertaste is pleasant or unpleasant.

5. Think

Finally, take the time to think about the wines you have tasted. What did you like….what did you dislike? Start a mental and/or written journal about wines you enjoyed and why. Now instead of randomly selecting a bottle of wine at your local liquor store, you can go directly to the section of wine that you enjoy. With a few wine tasting tips for beginners and a couple of wine tastings under your belt, you will become an educated consumer. No more wandering endlessly in the aisles of your local liquor store. No more taking advice from co-workers or the guy behind the cash register. No more wondering if the $10 bottle of table red is as good as the $50 bottle. You will know what type of wine you enjoy for any season, any occasion, and for any meal. Happy tasting! 

About the Author

Jason McClain

Jason McClain

As the proprietor of McClain Cellars, I am thrilled to finally do the one thing I have always loved the most. Create amazing wines to be shared with my family and friends. After spending over 30 years tasting wines on the other side of the bar, my wife Sofia and I decided to throw caution to the wind and start our own winery here in Laguna Beach. You can visit us and taste our wines at The Hive in Laguna Canyon, 849 Laguna Canyon Road. (949) 590-9980.

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