Red Wine Tasting



Tasting is a practice aimed at evaluating the organoleptic qualities of Red Wine, or the combination of its properties, through the senses: sight, smell, taste, and touch (in the mouth). 

The olfactory sense (sense of smell) permits us to perceive odors, also called aromas or bouquet, through the nose, as well as mouth aromas, which are retronasally sensed through the canal that connects the nose to the mouth (illustration above). A Red Wine, once in the mouth, releases a large quantity of aromatic molecules. The perceptions produced by taste and retronasal smell, constitute what we call the flavor of a food or drink.


Tasting is divided into three phases using the eyes, the nose, and the mouth. 


The evaluation of the visual aspect of a wine is the first step in tasting. During this step the color tonality, the concentration of color and the clarity of the liquid, and its fluidness are evaluated.


IIn this phase of the tasting we use the sense of smell via the external apparatus, the nose, in order to identify the mixture of different odors (aromas) that determines the identity of the product. In addition to describing the specific aromas perceived in the wine, the olfactory analysis must evaluate: the intensity of the aromas; the bouquet’s persistence, or how long we perceive the aromas after a wine has been uncorked and poured into a glass; the bouquet’s complexity, which is high when we can perceive several different aroma categories; the quality of aging.



In this phase of the analysis we evaluate not solely the “taste” in the narrow sense of the word, but also the tactile sensations and the mouth aromas which are perceived via the retronasal route. 

The sense of taste resides in the taste buds, present in very large quantities on the tongue. The fundamental tastes are sweet, bitter, salty, sour, and umami (the “fifth flavor or basic taste,” close to that of “savory” discovered at the beginning of the 20th century in Japan, which does not influence the tasting of a wine). The most common tactile sensations perceived when tasting a Red Wine are astringency (due to the tannins), temperature (due also to alcohol level), fluidity, and greasiness (due to the polyalcohols).

The taster must evaluate the wine’s balance, in addition to its body, the intensity of the perception of its aromas, and the aromas themselves. A wine has a good balance when hardness (due to acidity, astringency and sapidity) and softness (due to sweetness, heat-alcohol and greasiness-polyalcohols) are both present and they balance each other out.

How to taste a wine

  • Pour a small quantity of wine into the glass. 
    If the wine is too cold, you can heat the glass with the palm of your hand; 
  • Without swirling the wine, inhale it deeply and decisively. The first time it is advised to smell without swirling the glass in order to perceive the most volatile aromas.
    Now, swirl the wine in order to disperse all of the aromas. In order to evaluate the “Nose” of a wine you have to “sniff” several times: when the wine has a good complexity, with every inhalation your brain will be able to recognize new aromas.
    Take a small sip of wine and swish it around so that it comes in contact with all the areas of the mouth and tongue. With this first sip you should be able to evaluate the hardness or the softness of a wine. 
    Take another sip of wine and aerate it (open your mouth for a moment with the wine inside in order to bring it back into contact with the air); close the mouth by touching the top and bottom teeth together and make sure that the tongue presses on the back of the top teeth and the roof of the mouth. Take two or three short decisive breaths in order to excite the aromatic compounds present in the wine. Taste the wine for a few seconds before swallowing. In this way the wine mixed with the saliva and the air comes into contact with the taste buds and, at the same time, via the retronasal canal, the olfactory perception opens up. 

Click here to discover Red Wine Aromas. Learn to train your sense of smell to recognize the most relevant aromas. You will also learn everything about the taste and aromas of some the principle wines.