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Wine Tasting 101

In Happy Hour

Need to brush up on your wine basics or ready to unleash your inner sommelier? Just in time for our next wine dinner, here’s a quick guide to wine tasting.


Before you even take a sniff or sip, the appearance and color of a wine can give you important clues. Holding the glass by the stem or base, tilt the glass up to the light or look through using a white napkin or wall as a backdrop.

Color: The intensity of a wine’s color can convey some idea of its character. A light, pale white wine will likely have less flavor than a golden wine. Similarly, a pale red wine typically has less body than a dark, deeply colored wine.

Clarity: Wine clarity refers to the absence or presence of naturally occurring particles or sediment in a wine. Clarity can range from:

Brilliant: Absolutely free of sediment; crystal clear

Clear: Free of sediment, but not brilliant

Cloudy: Visible sediment or a muddy look


The smell of a wine is a critical component in how it will taste. When it comes to wine scents, you’re judging two things:

Aroma: The smells that are directly related to the odor of the fresh wine grape

Bouquet: The smells that result from the fermentation or aging process.

Swirl your glass to infuse the wine with oxygen and release its aromas. Hold the glass close to your nose and inhale deeply. What can you smell? Fruits? Spicy? Is it Oakey or Sweet? Remember to swirl and aerate the wine between sips to heighten the scents and flavor.


Take a small amount of wine into your mouth and draw some air; let the flavors meld before swallowing. Some things to look out for:

Body: Light, Medium or Full

Light Body: Thin, slightly watery in texture (like skim milk)

Medium Body: Fuller than light but not too heavy in texture (like regular milk)

Full Body: Very robust, rich and mouth-coating in texture (like heavy cream)

Finish (or aftertaste): Short, Long, Clean or Unpleasant

Short: Very little aftertaste; the wine’s flavors disappear quickly

Long: Lingering aftertaste; the wine’s flavor is noticeable for a length of time

Clean: Pleasurable finish free of defects or unpleasant tastes; can either be short or long

Unpleasant: Unlikable aftertaste caused by excessive bitterness, sweetness, tartness or off flavors.

After combining what your senses tell you about the wine’s appearance, nose, taste, body and finish, you will have an overall impression. A good wine should have all of the above elements in balance with a consistent character.