Wine Basics

The enjoyment of wine is very personal. You don't have to be an expert--you just need to trust your own taste. Each time you try a new wine, your awareness of the character and subtle differences will be expanded. Tasting wine is like a sport: the more you practice, the better you become. To enhance your appreciation and enjoyment of wine, learn the basics first.

Five Simple Steps

1. Look
The first step is to hold the glass by the stem and look through the wine against a white background to appreciate the true color. The wine should be bright and clear, not hazy or cloudy. White wines range in color from nearly clear to a golden yellow. Red wines range in color from dark, intense red to light, pale red.

2. Swirl
To get the full aroma of the wine, fill a large wine glass a third of the way full, and swirl the wine around in the glass. This releases the aromatics.

3. Smell
Inhale deeply through your nose and try to identify what you smell. Do you smell fruit or spices? You might find hints of familiar smells including wood, tobacco, citrus, apple, chocolate, plums, pineapple, flowers or raspberries. While contemplating the smell, look at the wine and notice whether it's thick or thin, bright or mellow, clear or hazy.

4. Taste
After taking a sip, roll the wine around in your mouth to reach all of your taste buds. Then, breathe air through your lips to release the aromas. If the wine makes you pucker, it may be a little tart (high in acids) or tannic (dry like banana skins and tea leaves). If it feels hot and burns a little, it may have high alcohol content. If none of these elements overwhelm you, the wine is likely well-balanced. Notice how it feels in your mouth: this is called the texture.

5. Spit
It may make you slightly uncomfortable initially, but if you are tasting several wines during an event it is essential to spit. Spitting enables you to experience wines without the danger of imbibing too much alcohol. If you are just trying a few, go ahead and swallow. A wine that lingers in your mouth and throat after you have spit is a sign of good length and body.

The Seasons of Wine

A wine calendar to help you decide when to buy, when to taste, and when to visit.

Planting........................January - March

Fermenting.......................August - January

Growing.......................March - September

Bottling............................February - May

Pruning........................June - September

Celebrating......................All Year Long

Harvesting....................August - November

© 2012 Washington Wine Commission

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