Wine Tasting Tips

The Central Coast Region boasts a rich tradition in winemaking and viniculture dating back to the mission era of the late 17th century. Today, scores of wineries and over a hundred vineyards growing premium wine grapes dot the oak savannah-covered hillsides and our spectacular scenic coast.

Here, a day of wine touring begins with a pleasant drive along rural country roads. Visitors discover small family-owned wineries where they’re greeted with genuine warmth and treated like an old friend. Chat with the winemaker, enjoy a picnic on winery grounds, and sample finely-crafted, award-winning wines.

Most of the following wineries and shops offer tasting to the public. Please call ahead to inquire about hours open, tours, and tasting fees.

The experience of tasting different wines is one of the many wonderful things in life. Educated tasting is a combination of knowledge, experience, and learning the disciplined use of the three senses involved – sight, smell, and taste.

sampling the bouquetDo not become discouraged if you cannot immediately recognize certain wines or their countries of origin. It takes many years and much discipline to even begin to know wines for their particular characteristics. However,
this experience can be enjoyable at any level and anyone can try it – once you know some basics. As your knowledge increases and you become more practiced, you will become more skillful at this art, which enhances your enjoyment and understanding of wine.

Reasons for Tasting and Writing Notes

(a) To keep a personal record of each wine tasted.

(b) To describe a wine when explaining its positive
or negative qualities to others.

(c) To determine the quality of a wine in terms of
value; i.e., when making a purchasing decision.

(d) To monitor the progress of a wine, which is
essential to protecting your investment.

Wine Glasses

Glasses should be completely clean, dry, and polished. Make sure they are washed in hot water only, without detergent which leaves a distinct odor.

Glasses should be broader at the base and narrower at the top. This shape aids by guiding the aroma towards the nose.

Tasting Conditions

Professional tasting should always be done in neutral conditions.

Ideal surroundings are:

  • good daylight
  • clean white surfaces
  • no distracting odors

The absence of distracting odors is very important. Scents of perfume or aftershave affect the bouquet of wine and make it difficult to taste properly. Fumes of any kind should be avoided.

The Actual Process

The best time to taste is before a meal. Try not to perform this after a hearty meal, as your taste buds will be affected by what you have been eating previously.

Taste white wines first, then rosés, then reds.

In tasting accurately, only a small amount should be poured into the tasting glass. To fill it more than one-third full makes it difficult to perform some of the following operations.

All wines have certain common characteristics

  • Sweetness/Dryness
  • Acidity
  • Tannin
  • Weight or Body
  • Fruit

proper fill levelProper Fill Level for Tasting

Visual
A great deal can be learned about wine by examining it visually. As you do, look for the following points:

Clarity
Is the wine bright and healthy looking or is it hazy or cloudy?

Intensity
Is the color deep or pale?

A great deal can be learned about wine by examining it visually. As you do, look for the following points:

Color

Proper angleHold the glass at an angle against a white background and note the color. This is best seen on the rim of the wine, as shown in the illustration on the right. Red wines begin life as purple, changing with age to red, mahogany, and eventually brown. A great deal can be learned about wine by examining it visually.

Smelling
The smell of a wine is referred to as its “nose.” While noting the nose, the wine’s various aromas may be released by swirling it in the glass. This also allows the oxygen from the air to mix with the wine and bring it into optimum condition. Sniff gently, but deeply, and check for the following:

  1. Condition
    How does the wine smell? Is it pleasing? Are there any musty, earthy, or unpleasant aromas?
  2. Intensity
    Is its nose weak or full?
  3. Character
    The description of the fruitiness can be difficult at first. With practice, however, one will become more skilled and able to recognize certain fruit and/or flower characteristics. Some note characteristics of currant, flowers, cherries, or berries.
  4. Tasting
    This is the most important step of the process. The taste of wine is known as its “palate”. After the wine has had a chance to “breathe,” take a small mouthful. Let the wine hit every part of your mouth. Different areas of the mouth taste different flavors.

Use a spittoon to discard the wine after tasting and to allow yourself some time to admire the taste in your mouth and note the length of its finish.

Professional tasting allow you the opportunity to taste a wide range of wines from all over the world. These are wonderful if you wish to appreciate how the flavors and styles of different wines from other countries compare. They also offer an opportunity to further enhance your enjoyment of wine.