Going to a wine tasting can be intimidating—especially if it’s your first time to be surrounded by people waxing poetic about alcohol. But if wine is something you enjoy, attending a tasting can be a fun learning experience. Not only does it allow you to explore the diverse flavors, aromas, and complexities of wine, but it’s also a way for you to get to know a wine’s history, culture, and geography.
“There’s no one way to do a wine tasting,” says Mathieu Gendre, Portfolio Consultant and in-house sommelier at the newly-opened Global Cellar Door by Winery.ph, one of the country’s biggest online marketplaces for wine and spirits. “Each place has a different approach depending on what wine they’re offering.” However, when led by a certified expert, there are actually baselines for what to expect at a tasting. Fellow Winery.ph sommelier Miggy Nazareno adds: “There are general things to remember that would help you know what to do and what not to do.”
Here are four tips that could help when you find yourself in a wine tasting event, as shared by the experts over at Winery.ph:
There are things you can do to prepare yourself before you step into a tasting room. One is to remember to dress comfortably and appropriately. Also, best to wear something dark to hide any spillage that might happen—you are going to be tasting different wines, after all, and you wouldn’t want your night ruined by a stain.
“It would also be better not to wear overpowering fragrances that could affect your senses,” Gendre explains. What you smell is 80 percent of what you taste, and when you’re going to a place where your goal is to smell and taste the wines, you want to get the best sensory experience possible, your senses focused on the goal at hand.
Remember the 5Ss
There is a cheat code to tasting wine, and it’s called the 5Ss—a mnemonic to the systematic approach to tasting. “In a world obsessed with speed, it’s a good way to slow down and really appreciate and experience the wine you’re drinking,” shares Nazareno. The 5 Ss are fundamental aspects to guide not just those who drink wine for fun but also wine professionals:
See: Observe the wine’s color and clarity. Tilt the glass slightly against a white background to get a better view. Younger wines tend to be more vibrant, while older wines may show some signs of aging, such as a slight brownish hue at the rim.
Swirl: Gently swirl the wine in the glass to release its aromas. This aerates the wine, allowing oxygen to interact with it and unlock its aromas.
Sniff: Stick your nose into the glass and take a deep breath. Identify the wine's aromas, which can range from fruity to floral, earthy, or spicy.
Sip: Take a small sip and coat your palate with wine. You might even notice experts swishing it around in their mouths to taste the wine completely. Take note of its flavors, acidity, sweetness, and tannins. Allow the wine to linger in your mouth.
Spit or Savor: At wine tastings, your goal is to objectively taste the wines offered. To do that, most people spit out their wine (into a paper cup, don’t worry) to be able to form more informed opinions about what they’re tasting. However, it doesn’t hurt to drink and savor the pours you genuinely like.
“Tasting wine is a learning experience, and there’s no shame in asking questions, no matter your level of expertise.” says Gendre. “In fact, the people hosting the event would even appreciate it; most of these people are so passionate about wine that they’re eager to share their knowledge to anyone who asks.”
If you don’t know where to start, ask about the winemaking process, grape varieties, vineyard history, or anything you find interesting.
As you go through the wines offered, take note of each one. Keep a record of your impressions, your favorite notes, or other information the hosts share. These notes will be helpful not only as references for future tastings, but also to help you figure out what wines to take home next.
Don’t forget to have fun
While wine tastings are said to be an educational experience, they’re meant to be enjoyable, too. Go into it with an open mind. Engage in conversations with the hosts and other attendees, exchange thoughts and opinions, and learn from different perspectives.
“Wine has this uncanny ability to bring people together,” says Nazareno. “Use this opportunity to have fun and make new connections with people who share the same passion. Don’t let wine lingo or complex terms turn you away; instead, use them as another way to expand your knowledge and appreciation.”
At the end of the day, wine tastings are a great way to discover more about your taste in wine. “You get to try various wines without committing to a full bottle,” explains Nazareno. “That’s one advantage of attending events like these. Even for people who work in the wine industry, it’s a great way to rediscover wines and find new favorites.”
If you still find the idea of a wine tasting intimidating, however, there are actually ways to dip your toes into it without committing an entire afternoon. “I recommend easing yourself into the experience by visiting places that give sample portions or free pours, like here at Winery.ph,” Gendre shares. “Every Saturday, we serve complimentary sampling pours at our Global Cellar Door. It’s not exactly a formal tasting event, but it’s a good way to still experience wine, and interact with experts.”