Ladies Guide on How to taste Wine like a Pro

Ladies Guide on How to taste Wine like a Pro
Red wine for meat, white wine for fish.

The business of tasting wine seems ripe for caricature. All professional tasters sniff and swirl, sip and gargle, and then spit – not so silly a performance when you’ve got to try fifty or sixty samples in a morning and make sound commercial decision, let alone drive a car or be coherent. Professionals also take notes, again for good commercial reasons.

For most people who are simple interested in increasing their enjoyment of wine, it is enough to give a wine our full attention for the first few moments we encounter it, and to make mental notes about what we like, eventually building up a store of pleasant memories for reference.

If you wish to go further, here is how professionals do it.

In a good light, pour an ounce or so of wine into a wineglass of at least six ounces capacity. Hold the glass up to the light or, even better, against a white surface (even a countertop will do); this is to judge the color and clarity. A white wine that is deeply colored, shading toward brown, may well be past its prime or simple spoiled; sometimes red wines have sediment floating around in them.

Recork such a wine and let it stand for a day – the sediment should fall to the bottom, and the wine will be fine after decanting.

Swirl the wine around to release its aroma (the glass should have curved sides).

Poke your nose into the glass and take a deep, short sniff. Your nose is hundreds of times more sensitive than your palate and will tell you a lot about the flavour of the wine – if it’s spoiled or off in some way, this is where you’ll find out. Then sip and, holding the wine in your mouth, slosh it around.

Some does gargle or imitate a seal, but it doesn’t necessary. This step confirms the other impressions and lets you taste the acidity and tannin, and decide finally whether the wine is balanced and harmonious. It’s actually a fairly quick and simple process.

Ladies Guide on How to taste Wine like a Pro

When we’re presented with a wine in a restaurant, we can adopt a very streamlined version to evaluate wine discreetly. Some aspects of wine rituals are based on the hazards of previous times. We are presented with a cork after the waiter pulls it to be sure that it’s sound, not rotten or crumbled, and to check that the wine is from the right producer.

A hundred years ago, corrupt merchants world put famous labels on bottles of mediocre wine, and so the famous chateaux began stamping their names onto the corks. Some people sniff the cork – the waiter may – because a lot of the faults of spoiled wine are caused by infected corks. If one end of the cork is wet, the wine has been stored properly, on its side. I usually just pick up the cork from the side of my plate where the waiter has put it, touching my fingertip to its wet end. The real test is to come, so why linger?

The waiter pours a bit of wine for the host, or person who has ordered the wine, just a splash. This is the moment that a lot of people dread, forgetting that it’s the wine that’s being judged, not them. Give the wine a swirl, then simply take a sniff. It’s worth not rushing though this bit.

Does the wine smell all right?

Are there any off odours?

The smell of eggs, rubber, vinegar, sauerkraut, burnt matches, and moldy wet newspapers can all occur from bad winemaking or a bad cork or a mold fungus loose in the winery; it happens. If you have any doubts, ask someone else at the table to have a sniff, and invite the waiter’s opinion, too. He or she may have a sniff of your glass, or get someone knowledgeable on the staff to do so. This is not in the category of “making a scene” – it’s about making sure you get a good wine. After all, you’re paying a thoroughly marked-up price for it!

Ladies Guide on How to taste Wine like a Pro

The business of having to send wine back rarely happens, by the way, but people do worry about. If the wine is spoiled, it will be obvious and there should be no problem in sending it back. Even if it’s not and you only think it is (and say so courteously), the restaurant should take it back anyway.

Similarly, if a waiter makes the wine selection, the responsibility shades a bit more toward the restaurant if you don’t approve, but it’s a good idea to provide an idea of your taste and expectations to avoid disappointment. Only if the wine were a rare bottle and very expensive, with the fault not obvious, might there be a question, but then it’s a job of a restaurant to make clear beforehand that there may be a gamble involved, and to be reasonable about judging the soundness of the wine.

Ladies Guide on How to taste Wine like a Pro

This guide will help you a lot, and remember:

A lady must know her wines.

xoxo, Blair


  1. What a fantastic post full of excellent information! I am going to have some wine tonight, and have your post to refer to ready to go :)

  2. I do love my red wine and I guess I should be getting some today, don't judge stressful week. It's always great to know the rules not to end up embarrassing oneself in public.


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