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Wine Tasting 101

January 18, 2015

Wine tasting doesn't have to be overwhelming but rather a fun event.

Since our annual fundraising event is fast approaching, we thought that it would be a perfect idea to write about wine and take the fear out of wine tasting.


When it comes to learning to taste wine, there is no difference than learning to appreciate art or music. The more you fine-tune your sensory abilities, the more you’ll be able to enjoy the explosion of flavours that great wines provide. Think through your senses … sight, smell and taste.


How to taste wine in a nut shell:

First thing you notice when you are being served a glass of wine is the colour. Then you swirl the wine in the glass, sniff and you are ready to sip… take a small sip and swish it around your mouth to fully appreciate the texture and taste. It`s as simple as this. Now, let's dive further and break it into smaller steps:



The colour and the opacity or depth of the wine can give you indications on the age, alcohol, sugar content and the grape variety. As wine ages, it tends to change colour towards deeper hues of brows and yellows. You`ll also look for clarity. Most wines are fairly clear. Old wines sometimes have sediment in the bottle and need to be filtered. Viscosity or "legs" are the stripes of wine that slowly roll down the sides of the glass after swirling the wine. The legs are a measure of the viscosity of the liquid and show the sugar and alcohol concentration.  The more viscous, the more pronounced legs. Fortified dessert wines such as Port or Madeiras  will always have more pronounced legs.



Become aware of what you are drinking and pick at least two flavours. Try and identify them. According to pros, there are 3 types of wine aromas or bouquets:

Primary which come from grapes and include fruit, flower and herbal notes.

Secondary aromas coming from fermentation process.

Tertiary bouquets which come from aging, oxidation and oak –barrel aging such as vanilla, spice and nutty notes.



There are 2 elements that make up the taste: flavour and structure.

Most wine tasters are looking for specific descriptors such as raspberry, lemon, chocolate, spice etc. Just think about what it reminds you of. Close your eyes and allow your brain to bring back memories, there is no right or wrong.

Structure of the wine refers to level of sweetness, acidity and tannins.

Is the wine sweet or dry? Ask yourself about the flavours you are decoding” Is the wine light and crisp or full-bodied and rich? Is it smooth and velvety or heavy? Is it fruity or earthy?”

Acidity helps hold the flavours together and it should be in balance with other components of the wine.

Tannins are polyphenol chemicals that are occurring naturally in the skin, seeds and stems of grapes. Since red grape varieties are generally higher in tannin than white varieties, tannin levels are far higher in red wines than in white wines.

A good wine should be balanced with all its component parts being in harmony as a whole.



A little knowledge goes a long way when it comes to buying, storing and serving wine.

Although all wine is stored at the same temperature, reds and whites are enjoyed at different temperatures. White wines should be chilled before drinking and red wines should be have time to rise in temperature. Dessert wines, sparkling wines and rosés are best enjoyed at a cooler temperature than whites.

Wine Serving Temperatures:

White Wines: 45-50 °F or 7-10 °C

Red Wines: 50-65 °F or 10-18 °C

Rosé Wines: 45-55 °F or 7-13 °C

Sparkling Wines: 42-52 °F or 6-11 °C

Fortified Wines: 55-68 °F or 13-20 °C


Have fun, sample new wines and embrace your inner sommelier!

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