How to critically assess wines.

The look

The wine’s colour can give you an initial picture of the wine: how old it is, and what the quality of the wine is.

Pour a small amount of wine into a glass, tilt the glass at an angle of 45 degrees away from you and look at it against a plain white background.

A faulty wine, such as one that is oxidised or cooked, will be noticeable through its incorrect colour.

The scent

What you initially perceive from the wine are the most volatile aromas. From your first sniff, you should be able to determine if a wine has an unpleasant smell and is therefore faulty due to oxidation, acetic acid (vinegar) or corkiness.

Gently swirl the wine in the glass with a rhythmic circular motion of your wrist. If you aren’t confident doing this, place the glass’s base on a flat surface like your table and, holding near the base, move the glass in a smooth circle to swirl the wine.

Swirling wine releases the less volatile aromas, allowing you to capture the complete picture of the nose of the wine.

The taste

Take a sip and keep it in your mouth. Think about the wine’s initial impact (what’s your first impression?), mouthfeel (how does it feel in your mouth?) and finish (what’s your last impression, how long does it last?).

To intensify the tasting, you can chew the wine to release tannins or suck air through the wine to release sealed aromas.

If you are tasting a series of wines, keep in mind that any consumed alcohol will impact your sense of taste. Drink water to neutralize your palate between wines, as eating dry bread or crackers can affect your sense of taste.

Overall impression

Having tasted your wine sample, have a smell of your empty glass.

You will find new aroma structures that can provide you with additional information about the wine.

At this final stage, the most important thing is the overall impression you have formed during the wine tasting. Assess the wine’s complexity, balance and perceived age.

For wine tasting or just to enjoy, a wide selection of fine wines are available at

Images from Riedel