4 Steps to Wine Tasting | Drink Like a Pro

Drinking wine & tasting wine may sound very similar to the average drinker. But at the end of the day - there is a difference between simply drinking wine, and tasting wine.

If you want to get the most out of every drop of wine - you want to follow these steps.


These 4 steps can be done in under 15 seconds after you've done it just a handful of times. Especially if you aren't doing a formal evaluation.



Do you want to drink like a pro?


Follow the 4 'S's of wine tasting:

1) See
2) Swirl
3) Smell
4) Sip


Let's dive into each individually and then Summarize at the end


#1 See

Pretty simple - look at the wine in your glass to evaluate its Appearance.

This is done to give some clues to the quality, Age, and Body of the wine - and make sure there isn't anything strange floating in your glass.


Looking at a wine is more of an evaluation step for the pros than a way to improve the experience. But it can be fun for comparing wines.


The best way to look at a wine is to use a white paper or cloth, and to tilt the glass on a 45 degree angle.


A few things you are looking for:

  • Does the wine look "normal"?
    • Is there something floating in it?
    • Weird "spottiness" (may be soap from the glass!)
    • Cloudiness is okay for older or unfiltered wines


  • How deep is the color?
    • White can be almost colorless for young whites and amber for older white wine
    • Reds go from dark to lighter


Bonus Points:

Look for the "Legs" on the side of the glass after you Swirl. The thicker and slower they drip back into the glass, the higher alcohol content and likely higher Body the wine has.


... what if you can't actually see beyond its a "white" or "red" wine?


Don't worry!

The ability to judge Appearance improves over time and is more of an intermediate skill.


#2 Swirl

This is a skill that will really improve your wine experience.

Swirling is done to Aerate the wine and increase the intensity of the wine's Aromas. 


To Swirl: 

  • Make sure your glass is no more than half full, ideally less than 25%.


  • Slowly make a circle with your glass.
    • Easiest on a counter top and with a wine glass that has a stem.


Bonus Points:

Swirl in midair with your non-dominant hand.



#3 Smell

The Aromas in wine are arguably the most important part of the wine's quality.

Taking a moment to Smell you wine isn't just important to judge "quality". The Aromas in wine can be highly enjoyable.


In fact...

The majority of our taste sensation actually comes from our nose.


One study found that between 75 and 95% of what we perceive as "Flavors" are actually Aromas. Flavour 2015


So for a wine to taste "good" without food, it almost needs to have great Aromas.


To Smell Wine:

  • Stick your nose near your glas
    • Can you smell anything? High quality and "Intense" wines can be smelled from just outside the glass
  • Don't be shy - stick your nose directly inside the glass
  • Pick out major types of smells before getting too specific
    • egitable, red fruits, black fruits as major types and then...
    • Specific smells like strawberry, green peppers, or black currants


Bonus Points:

If you want to take a step toward identifying rather than just enjoying...

An Aroma Wheel can help identify the Aromas found in a wine.


#4 Sip

Now its time to taste the wine. This is the part where you can evaluate the wines Acidity, Body, and Finish.

Plus you can taste something delicious!

After sipping you should start to consider if you like the wine overall.


To Taste the wine:

  • Take a small sip of the wine
  • Swish it around you mouth
  • Swallow (or Spit into a container if you are evaluating the wine)
  • Take note of the way your mouth feels
    • Does it dry out?
    • How long does the taste linger (Finish)?
  • Did you enjoy the overall wine experience? 


To Summarize:

1) You can take a look (See) at your wine glass to evaluate its appearance and ensure there are no obvious problems like a floating piece of cork.

2) Swirl your glass to bring out the Aromas

3) Smell your wine - this is enjoyable. More intense Aromas are better wines to drink without foods

4) Sip your wine - swish it around you mouth and evaluate how it feels in your mouth and how long the Flavors linger (Finish)


Follow the 4 steps to wine tasting (See, Swirl, Smell, and Sip) to fully enjoy your wine and perform some basic evaluations of the wine you drink. 

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Where to Find Wine Tastings?


Wineries and Vineyards

Obviously there is a lot of wine tasting in traditional wine country (Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley outside of California).

However - there are almost 10,000 wineries in the US. Many of these may be closer than you think. For example - we are based in Chicago and have 3 strong wineries within 25 miles.

A good resource for locating wineries near you: American Winery Guide


Wine Tasting Bars

There are likely many bars near you that specialize in wine. The way it generally works is you can order wine by the glass or order a tasting ($2-15 each). In this will be an arrangement of options.

We highly recommend people go and enjoy wine tasting near them. Look especially for places that have a large variety of wines and that rotate the selection.

Be prepared - many of these places are trying to up-sell you to either a wine club or to take home a bottle. Remember - if you don't like the wines served, you don't have to take them home!


Wine Tasting Festivals

Let the wineries come to you!

These events are only one or a couple days, but can be loads of fun. You purchase tickets and can sample from multiple vendors which are a mix of regional wineries, distributors, and wine vendors.

Wine Festivals can be a great opportunity to try a variety of wines at a reasonable price.


Try searching "Wine Tasting" + your zip code to find a wine bar or festival near you.


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