How to Get Better at Drinking Wine

Lets say you're big into fashion and someone tells you "It's just a sweater." And you say "Woah woah woah! That's so not true. There is a whole world of nuance you're just not seeing!" It's the same way with wine.

Maybe you've never really taken wine seriously before. How do you get the insight to know if the wine is a good wine? Do you just go with "It tastes good, so I like it," or is there something more to it?

The key is to break it down to its individual parts. There are 4 primary components you can use to evaluate the wine you're drinking:

  1. Smell
    Stick your nose inside the wine glass and focus hard on what you smell. Do you smell fruit? What kind of fruit? Are the aromas intense or light? Is there a burn from the alcohol vapors or not? See how many different aromas you can detect.
  2. Taste
    Take a sip. How does it feel? What flavors do you taste? Are the various flavors similar to what you smelled or were there some surprises you didn't see coming? Is it acidic or sweet? Does it dry out your mouth or is it more of a smooth feel? Do the flavors overwhelm your mouth or are they light? Do you feel like all the flavors and feels are in balance with each other or is it more of a bumpy ride?
  3. Finish
    After you swallow the wine what is the aftertaste in your mouth? Do the flavors just ring on and on like a vibrating bell or do they immediately die off? How does your mouth feel? Happy? Set on edge? Do the same things you detected in the Smell and Taste continue on for the aftertaste of the wine?
  4. Overall Impression
    After you've considered the above 3 components of the wine make an overall judgement about what you like and don't like about the wine. Try to sum it up.

Other secondary stuff to pay attention to:

  1. Where did the wine come from?
    No, I don't mean "The Grocery Store". We're talking about what country did it come from? And who was the winery that made it? Is there a specific person named as the winemaker? Did the grapes come from a specific area, or even a specific vineyard?This is important because the two biggest effects that give each wine it's unique quality is a) where the grapes were grown, and b) and how the winemaker made it.
  2. What year is the wine?
    This is called the 'vintage'—essentially defined as the harvest year of the grapes used in this wine.
  3. Appearence
    In the past the Appearance was actually considered one of the Primary components listed above in this article. But with modern winemaking techniques virtually all wine goes through a filtering process that removes particles and contaminates that olden day winemaking couldn't easily remove. Wine back then often would appear cloudy or have lots of sediment in it. So wine drinkers would judge the appearance of the wine as one of the primary factors of whether it was good or not. Today's winemaking techniques pretty much guarantees beautiful dazzling looking wine every time.
  4. Sweetness
    Consider how sweet or non-sweet the wine smells, tastes, and finishes.
  5. Lightness vs. Bigness
    Is the wine 'big' and intense in the Smell, Taste, and Finish, or is it light delicate? One isn't necessarily better than the other it's just something to consider and take note of when you're comparing one wine to another.
  6. Fruitiness
    Some sort of fruit Smell, Taste, and Finish is extremely common in wine. On one end of the spectrum you can have a huge fruit flavor dominating the wine and sometimes you can have a wine that tastes like dirt with no fruit flavors at all. Each wine you try will fall somewhere on this spectrum.
  7. Acidity
    Maybe people place Acidity up against Sweetness as opposite sides of the spectrum. Many times this is the case but it is also not uncommon to have a non-sweet but also acidic wine. Take note of how much acid Taste and Finish you can detect.

Below is a Wine Aroma Wheel. Take a quick peek at it to help give you a sense of the various different kinds of Aromas, Tastes, and Finishes you can try to be aware of when you're drinking a wine.

Here's a nice visual created by the American Soc. for Enology and Viticulture by A.C.Noble and Am J. Enol (buy a color laminated version of it from their site: )

In summary, its a killer past time to sit around with friends trying different kinds of wine, getting your buzz on, and seeing if you can dig in and detect all the crazy cool nuances there are in wine.

There's no other drink like it!