How to taste wine

WWMD: What would Margaret drink?

Margaret Pearman is a certified sommelier under the Court of Master Sommeliers and is responsible for curating the award-winning wine list at Charlie’s L’Étoile Verte. Here is her sipping suggestion for March.

How to taste wine

It seems so simple and basic yet is one thing I see most people are absurdly intimidated by: tasting wine. I am not a sommelier who dreams up one hundred little adjectives for a wine. However, I do follow the four simple steps everyone should prescribe to before taking a sip.

Step 1: Look

Hold the glass up to the light or against a white background. The color of a wine is indicative of varietal and age. Is the color opaque or clear? Swirl the glass to check the viscosity. Unfortunately, this is not to check how long the “legs” are, but rather to give us a clue about alcohol level.

Step 2: Smell

You don’t have to put your nose in the glass, but take a sniff. Then take a long ponder. Wine has what we call the “primary” aromas that are characteristic of each type of grape. Then there are “secondary” aromas that come from the winemaking techniques. For instance, Chardonnay should give you apple and citrus first, but the oak used in aging gives a little butter and spice second. Lastly, check for any faults; basically any off-putting smells like wet cardboard or nail polish. This could mean you have a bad bottle.

Step 3: Taste

Start off with a big sip, and follow it up with several smaller sips. Try to identify three fruit flavors to start off, then three more non-fruit flavors. Feel how the wine coats your mouth: sweetness is detected on the front of the tongue, acidity level makes your mouth water, tannin is a textural drying-out sensation, and alcohol is the heat you feel in your throat.

Step 4: Conclude

Is the wine balanced? Does it represent the grape varietal based on where it is grown? What is your opinion? After all, a good wine is the wine you like!

Hilton Head Island Wine & Food Festival

Now that you know how to sip like a pro, show off your stuff at the Hilton Head Island Wine & Food Festival, set for March 20-26. Visit for details and ticket information.

March 17: Uncorked, Marriott Courtyard

March 20: Craft Beers at the Beach, The Westin

March 23: Sip & Stroll, Shops at Sea Pines Center

March 24: Stay Gold: Wine, Food and Music; Omni Shorehouse

March 25: Grand Tasting, Country Club of Hilton Head

March 26: Public Tasting, Celebration Park

Similar Posts