The Basics of Wine Tasting

How to taste wine

Wine tasting -St. Helena CA

When going to a wine tasting, dress well but comfortably. If you’ll be spending time outdoors, plan for the weather. There will probably be a tasting fee. If you find something you like, buy a bottle and you might save on the fee.

When you take a glass of wine, be sure to hold it by the stem or the base instead of the bowl, so the warmth of your hand doesn’t heat the wine past its optimum serving temperature. Look at the wine before you do anything else. Hold it up against a white background — in a wine-tasting setting, there should be one. This will let you get a sense of the wine’s color and clarity. As white wines age, they tend to get darker. As red wines age, they turn a red-brown shade.

Place the wine glass on a flat surface and swirl it a little. This is called aeration. Swirling the wine in the glass will not only reveal the body of the wine, but bring out the aroma. Breathe in the nose of the wine before you take your first sip — this is a big part of wine appreciation. (This is why you shouldn’t wear perfume or cologne at a wine tasting.) Think of the fruit and spice that the smell reminds you of. You might want a copy of Ann C. Noble’s Wine Aroma Wheel.

Even when talking about food, texture is much a part of why we like or dislike certain foods as the actual flavor, though we don’t think about it much. In wine tasting, texture and what is called “mouthfeel” are acknowledged as vital parts of the experience. It might have the sweetness of the fruit or traces of unfermented sugar, or the bitterness of tannins. After you’ve sipped it, take a moment to notice the aftertaste, or finish. With most foods, an aftertaste is something unintended and unpleasant, but in the world of wine the finish is an important part of the experience. Drink water between wines, to clear the palate.

Wine tasting at a vineyard near St. Helena

Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley, a 10-minute drive from downtown St. Helena, holds tastings in its barrel caves, where visitors can sample current releases and library wines and learn about the process of making and storing the wine. Cave tastings are $65, but one tasting fee can be waived by joining their wine club or making a $100 purchase. Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards produces world-class wines at affordable prices. The vineyard is a 40-acre estate just south of Howell Mountain, and has been owned and operated by the Anderson family since 1983. Anderson’s wines are sold online and in five locations in Napa Valley, and many other locations nationwide.