How to drink wine for beginners

Have you found yourself ever questioning why a waiter at a restaurant strongly recommends that you partake in tasting the wine? Or maybe your curiosity has been sparked by the ability of some individuals to distinguishing a wide array of notes within a wine? The secret lies in mastering the art of wine-tasting technique.

Wine-tasting is a multi-sensory experience, we will be utilising vision and the senses of smell and taste.

Step 1, Before drinking

Before you dive into the wine-tasting adventure, there's a crucial step: ensuring the wine is in good shape. Now, while there are a bunch of potential issues with wine, the most common one is what's known as a "corked" wine. If a wine is corked, it lets off a pretty unappetizing smell akin to soggy cardboard or damp earth. Not the kind of vibe you're looking for in your glass! This is why the waiters allow you to taste the wine first, not because you might not like the wine.

1.1 A quick sniff

Give your wine glass a gentle swirl, and then give it a quick whiff – this is just to make sure the wine isn't giving off any funky odors. If it does, no need to stress! Just let your waiter know if you're at a restaurant, or if you're sipping at home, you might want to get in touch with where you got the bottle. The good news? This kind of thing doesn't actually happen all that frequently!

1.2 A quick sip

After a quick sniff, it's time for a sip. But hold off on the rapid swallowing – let the wine flow across your palate. Anything funky? Like, perhaps a bit of unexpected fizziness in a red or white wine that's supposed to be still? Surprisingly, this is more common than running into a corked wine. It's all about a little accidental second fermentation that can occur in the bottle. This sneak attack of fizz is brought on because a winemaker left behind some residual sugar and those crafty yeast cells decided to throw a party, producing carbon dioxide.

Now, here's a bit of unfortunate news: in our neck of the woods, the bars and restaurants in Singapore sometimes downplay this fizzy situation and serve up these flawed wines. A life hack though – sometimes pouring the wine into a decanter can help tame the fizz. But if that wine's got a bit too much fizz going on, it's going to become pretty much undrinkable. So if that fizz is throwing things off, don't hesitate to send that bottle right back. You've got every right to enjoy your vino without any surprise party tricks!

Step 2, Drinking wine

Now when you know that the wine is sound, you can start your journey!

2.1 Look

This step isn't a deal-breaker so feel free to skip it. But if you're game, let's talk about checking out the color.

Why, you ask? Well, it's like a sneak peek into what's hiding in that glass of yours.

First off, that color's going to whisper about the grape variety. Yep, it's that straightforward – just give it a good look and try to commit it to memory.

And remember those "legs" – those oily streaks hanging around after you've given the wine a twirl? They're like little indicators of how much sugar or alcohol is in the mix. Lots of legs? Well, that's your wine's way of winking at you, saying, "Hey, there's some serious sugar or alcohol action happening here."

Aging? Oh, that's a whole new chapter. As red wines grow older, they're like chameleons, shifting from youthful shades to more mature brick or garnet tones. White wines? They're on a journey too, saying goodbye to their bright days and hello to shades of gold or amber. So, my friend, that color isn't just a pretty face – it's a window into a whole world of wine wonders.

2.2 Swirl

Swirl wine before drinking


You've probably spotted folks giving their wine a little whirl – ever wonder why? Well, here's the scoop: wine is packed with aromas, and swirling helps those scents break free and fill up the glass. That's why there's a whole bunch of different wine glasses – each one's designed to let those flavors do their thing.

2.3 Smell

Smell wine before drinking

Once you've given your glass a swirl, take a whiff of what's happening in there. Let those amazing scents hit you – what do you catch? If putting a name to them feels like a puzzle, no sweat! Sometimes it's tough to pinpoint the exact fruit or veggie. So, go ahead and simplify it – say something like "red berries" or "spices." It's all about enjoying the ride!

If you wonder why we try to detect those aromas before drinking wine, here is the reason! 

Nerdy break

Here's a little mix-up that happens all the time - people commonly use taste and flavour interchangeably. But they are not exactly the same!


Let's dive into the of taste – you know, the sensation that ping-pongs around your taste buds. Science has sorted it into five main categories that everyone's on board with – bitter, sour, sweet, salty, and umami (which is like a savory high-five). But hey, there's more! There's this thing called "kokumi," stumbled upon by clever Japanese scientists back in the late '80s. It's like the new kid on the block, still being prodded and poked by researchers to figure out its deal.


Now, let's talk about flavor – it's a combination of taste, smell and how it feels in your mouth.
Think of when you’re having a delicious… butter chicken! It’s those crazy aromas come from your sense of smell, and when you’re sick and cannot smell, that butter chicken won’t taste that nice.
Here's an interesting fact – there are actually two ways our sense of smell gets in on the action: orthonasal and retronasal. Now, orthonasal is like the front-row seat, where the smells stroll in through your nostrils. Then there's retronasal, which is like the backstage pass – it's the sniffs that happen inside your throat while you're munching away. But wait, there's more! Our brain handles these two sniffs in different ways, so the aromas might be distinct.

2.4 A sip

Take a sip of wine

After you've taken a good whiff of that glass of wine and unlocked a few of its hidden scents, it's showtime on your taste stage. Take a sip, but hold off on the gulp – let the wine take a leisurely stroll around your mouth.

Our mission is to crack the code of the wine's texture. Here's what to zero in on – tannins, acidity, sweetness, and body.

2.4 Finish

Analyze wine

Now that you've had your fun swirling the wine around in your mouth, it's time for the grand finale – the swallow. But wait, the show's not over yet! Pay attention to the after-party in your mouth – that's what we call the "finish." Is it still rocking out after 10 seconds have passed? Well, that's a long finish right there. Or does it make a quick exit after just 2 seconds? That's the short version.

Final words

We wanted to make this tutorial as simple as possible. Once you start conscious tasting, you will start noticing more nuances. Drinking and learning wine is a journey that should be fun, so enjoy the journey!

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