The Best Way to Learn About Wine is By Tasting It

Anyone who knows about wine will tell you there’s no better way to learn about it than through the senses. This means tasting, smelling and analyzing. There is a lot to learn and wine tastings are the best way to affordably taste a variety of wines. Company representatives can also offer their knowledge and recommendations. Even if you are just beginning to learn about wine, there is no reason to feel intimidated or overwhelmed.

The best way to start learning about wine is by identifying characteristics of varietals and regions. This allows for development of wine knowledge and your own personal tastes. You may also discover wines you never have tasted before and find wines you didn’t think you liked. For example, California chardonnay is oaky and buttery from aging in oak barrels, but Italian chardonnay is aged in steel barrels and has a much different taste. So before you swear off chardonnay forever, it’s best to try different ones from regions around the globe.

Wine tastings are sometimes free, but definitely worth a nominal entry fee for the opportunity to try a variety of wines without purchasing the whole bottle. This includes wines in a variety of price ranges as well. With a little research, you may find stores near you that offer free weekly wine tastings. While they may only offer a few wines, this is still a good way to expand your wine knowledge. Sometimes stores also offer monthly specials on wines or discounts on wines they have at their tastings.

Here are some tips on tasting wine from the Wine Tastings Guide:

  • Opening & Pouring:  When pouring wine for a taste, only fill the glass about one quarter full, making sure to leave room for swirling and sniffing. If you are at a larger wine tasting, also keep in mind you may be trying several wines. It’s okay not to drink all of the wine (even advisable!) and pour the rest out once you are finished tasting. Remember to pace yourself!
  • Wine Color & Appearance: Assess the wine’s color, depth or opacity, clarity and viscosity. The wine’s color can indicate whether it is light, medium or full bodied, but this isn’t always the case.
  • Aroma or “Nose”: Study the aroma or “nose” of the wine, swirling if necessary. Describe what you smell. Is it oak, cherry, currant, citrus, vanilla or earth? Is it simple or complex? There is no right or wrong answer here, and don’t feel discouraged if you don’t identify the same aromas as others. Some will be inviting to you and make you want to sip the wine, while others may turn you off.
  • Flavor or “Mouth”: This is the final step in the process. Take a small sip and swirl the wine in your mouth. Suck in some air to help you identify more about the wine. How does it feel in your mouth? Is it smooth, dry, sweet or bitter? Are there tannins (a drying, cotton-like feeling) or does it feel silky and velvety? Is it lighter or fuller bodied? What is the “finish” like after you are done tasting the wine? Do you want to drink more? What is your overall assessment: positive or negative? This is another area where there is no right or wrong answer and personal preferences will come into play.
  • Take Notes: If there are wines you really enjoy, you may forget their names or characteristics, especially at larger wine tastings. Taking notes will help you remember what you liked about each wine and identify similarities or differences between them.

Another good resource is, which has listings of events by states, articles and other information. You can also sign-up for their newsletter which will include events in your area by email. If you don’t find what you are looking for there, research local wine stores or specialty stores to see if they offer weekly or monthly wine tastings. Here on the seacoast of New Hampshire, we are lucky to have a variety of opportunities to try different wines through weekly and monthly events and tastings.

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