10 wine tasting tips for beginners

Published Tuesday, June 27, 2017 in Lifestyle & Inspiration

Whether you love wine or only enjoy it occasionally, going to your first wine tasting can seem intimidating. It doesn’t have to be.

Whether you love wine or only enjoy it occasionally, going to your first wine tasting can seem intimidating. It doesn’t have to be. Wine tasting isn’t just for the experts — the ones you see on TV sniffing, spitting and sending “corked” bottles back to the kitchen — it’s for everybody.

To help you enjoy your first wine tasting, we’ve compiled 10 top tips to take some of the mystery out of the experience and to help you feel comfortable once you enter the cellar door.

The earlier in the day, the better

If you’re trying to decide whether to go wine tasting before or after lunch, the answer is to start before. This is because your palate is more alkaline earlier in the day, which is better for tasting purposes. In fact, the earlier the better — but most cellar doors in the Margaret River region only open after 10 a.m.!

Know what colour you like to drink

If you’re a total novice, this will require some trial and error. Give white, red and rosé a go and see what you prefer. If you’re interested in trying all colours, the cellar door manager will be able to advise you on which order to do this. Usually that means starting with reds. Don’t be embarrassed to ask if you can taste the full portfolio — this is standard!

Test the colour first

When you first receive a sample, hold your wine against something white. The more dense the colour of the wine, the fuller bodied (rich in flavour) you can expect the wine to be.

Then smell the wine

Just like you see on TV shows and in movies, now is the time to sniff your wine. Stick your nose into the glass and get a good whiff. If you detect any hints of vinegar, alert the cellar door manager.

Do the swirly thing, and smell it again

Next, swirl the wine glass in small circles to run some oxygen through the wine. Then sniff the wine again. You’ll notice the smells have grown stronger. This is the point where experts will pick up some of the “notes” in the wine profile you’ll see written in the tasting guide at the cellar door (like plum, aniseed or woods, for example). If you need to swirl and sniff another time, go ahead. If you pick up other smells not in the notes, share them with the cellar door manager and discuss them.

Taste the wine

It might feel like it took forever to get to this point but now, taste the wine. On your first sip, draw in oxygen with the wine with a slight slurp. (Some people like to pull the air into their mouth through their teeth.) This helps to bring out the full flavour of the wine.

Hold the wine in your mouth. If you wish to drink it then, do so; however, it’s also perfectly acceptable to spit it out into the spittoons available. Spitting is a good way to ensure you don’t exhaust your palate or become too intoxicated. This is really important if you want to try many different wines on your tour.

Cellar door managers are never offended if you spit a wine out. If you’ve been poured too much, or if the wine isn’t your style, there’s no pressure to drink all the wine in your glass. Feel free to pour the rest into the spittoon.

Wine tasting at Snake and Herring Wines cellar door in Wilyabrup

Wine tasting at Snake and Herring Wines cellar door in Wilyabrup

Ask the cellar door manager questions

The cellar door manager does not expect you to already have all the answers or to be an expert. They’re there to answer questions. Ask them about the difference between wines, what style of the variety it is, and so on. This will help you to understand specifically what you do and don’t like. It’s a particularly good idea to try any variety you haven’t heard of or tried before, as this will help you to widen your range.

Cleanse your palate

Between varieties, or between whites and reds, make sure you have water to clean your palate, so you can taste the next wine accurately. It will also help you stay healthy and hydrated.

Say thank you

When you’re done tasting wine don’t forget to thank the cellar door manager for their knowledge, assistance, service and, frankly, wine.

In the Margaret River and Great Southern regions especially we’re privileged to have free tastings available at most wineries, but the organisation still has to pay staff to man the cellar door, maintain the beautiful grounds and stay open. So, if you’ve had a good experience or enjoyed the wines, do what you can to support them. That could be buying a bottle of your favourite variety, or even passing on a recommendation to your friends or family.

Enjoy yourself

Remember, wine tasting is all about having fun and enjoying yourself. It’s a wonderful experience, so make the most of it — after all, your South-West holiday will be over all too soon.

If you’re planning a wine tasting tour of the stunning Margaret River or Great Southern wine-growing regions, take a close look at the fantastic homes offered by Private Properties to find your perfect holiday accommodation.