Tips For Tasting Wine

By January 6, 2016 April 16th, 2020 No Comments

When it comes to that special hour of the day and the bottle of wine is brought forth from that ‘special’ corner of the house so that the enjoyment ritual can commence, it often is a simple process from here;

  1. Open Wine
  2. Pour Wine into glass
  3. Tilt glass toward mouth – consume
  4. Smile

Simple and effective and no one should hold this method against you, skipping point number 2 and the jury might be out.

At Block78 we are big believers that wine should be a simple pleasure in life and that what you want out of it is entirely up to you.  There is no right or wrong, there is just what you enjoy and how you like to enjoy it!

If this is you and you are happy with that, then there is no need to continue reading.  Because the next 90 seconds of reading might just seem like wine wank talk.

However, with that being said, to enhance your wine experience there are several things that you can try.

Step 1.

Before the wine you need wine glasses, personal preference is something like what you see below.  They work well for any wine, try and find something with a nice thin tapered edge, and be careful – they break easy.


Some of our favourites Plumm, Riedel, Schott

Step 2.

Stimulate your senses:

Wine is judged through sight, smell and taste

Sight – try using natural light where you can and if you have a white background this will assist also.

For Red Wine, look for brilliant red and purple colour spectrums.  Aged red wine will tend to change to a more brick red colour.

For White Wine, look for classic pale straw, golden yellow and flinty green colours with variations dependent on the variety you are drinking.

NB: Try tilting your glass against the white backdrop to expand the variation in colours. 

I often hear people say the wine has good legs… blah, blah, blah…  It has no bearing on the quality of the wine.  The legs are related to the alcohol in the wine.  Higher alcohol, better legs??  Lower alcohol… Shorter Legs???  It doesn’t matter, it has no bearing on the quality of wine!

Smell – this is the majority of where good exploration skills are needed.  It is a fact that the nose (big, small or crooked) can pick up over 100,000 different smells, but what you need to know is that everyone smells and picks up different smells differently.

NB:  When someone says “this smells like chocolate” whilst all you can smell is Vanilla – just smile and nod.  Truth is, like your fingerprints, your nose too is different to theirs and it picks up different smells to the person beside you.   What smells strong to you, might be undetectable to them.  Hence why we don’t like saying a wine smells a certain way.

When smelling the wine try a few different techniques:

  • Inhale short and quickly
  • Inhale slow and long – my preferred method
  • Inhale with your mouth open or closed
  • Inhale with your eyes closed – also my preferred method

Try several different ways and see how the wine opens up to you.  Whilst trying these several different ways think of the:

  • Various soil profiles where the wine is grown – does the wine exude more minerality now, are more earthy tones- (think mushrooms) coming through?
  • The vines themselves – are they young or old vines, is there a certain unripe green smell?
  • The possible surroundings – eucalypt trees, maritime influence can you pick up any smells there?
  • The elements that the grape has endured to get to you – the hotter climates, cooler climates, wetter climates all play a role in the ripeness and flavour of the grapes.

Wine is so wonderful because of the array of smells we get from them.  Now start thinking about all the fruits from raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, lemons, limes, peach, grapes (yes think of those too), large stone fruits, apples, oranges, banana, kiwi fruit and so on.

Next, take the smell of the wine making process into consideration, almost like your nose is on the grapes journey.  Was there oak integration?  American Oak tends to be coarser and impart more oak oomph, French Oak tends to be more refined.  Hold out your hand with your fingers spread apart – that is American Oak.  Now close your fingers – that is French Oak.  Do you pick up the oak smell?  Oak also imparts vanilla, coffee, chocolate, toffee, smokey aromas to mention a few.

NB:  If you haven’t been swirling your wine through this process, go ahead and give it a swirl.  Sometimes I like to tell people it smells better when you swirl it clockwise.

Lastly; the smell of alcohol – if it is out of balance with the wine, your nose will pick up on this quite quickly, if you have ever smelt straight vodka you will understand.

Taste – getting the wine in your mouth, this is where the magic happens!  It is said that we detect 5 things once something enters your mouth; Umami (what the hell is that?), Bitter, Sweet, Sour and Salty.

Here the ‘Olfactory Bulb’ kicks into overdrive.  Once the wine is in the mouth go through some of the process’ similar to what you have just gone through with smelling the wine.  Be sure to exhale through the nose whilst the wine is in the mouth as this will invigorate the smell and taste.

Personally the ‘thing’ I look for most in a wine once it enters my mouth is BALANCE.  Do the fruit flavours, the acid, the tannins, alcohol, the oak integration all come together?  Is there something that dominates?

Some people like to swish and swirl the wine or inhale through their mouth to aerate the wine, to me this excites the alcohol more than anything.  Whatever works for you stick with it and be sure to enjoy your wine!

“Remember to avoid palate fatigue when tasting numerous wines – spit the wine out!”


Here is a little video courtesy from the Wine Spectator, it is a little quirky but you get the idea!

For any questions – please email or call  1300 036 046

Next >> The Definition of Wine

Learn more about wine.

David Wilson

About David Wilson

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