Whoever said “If a glass of wine is good for you, then two glasses must be even better?” has got it right.
In fact, if you want to become a wine expert, you have to be prepared to up your consumption by a lot. And by a lot, we mean trying out as many reds and whites from various countries.
But you already know that. What you really want to know is how soon you can show off your wine expertise to your friends and the steps you need to take to get there.
Don’t worry. We got your back.
Though we can’t promise you’ll be the next Robert M. Parker Jr., you’ll know enough to impress your guests before your next dinner party.
So let’s get to it.
Don’t be distracted.
Strong aromas can affect your impressions of the wine. If you’re in a crowded room, try to find some neutral air before you sniff the wine. That means getting as far away as you can from cooking smells, pet odors, perfume, and the like.
Getting the temperature right is also important. If the wine’s too cold, you can cup the glass to bring the temperature up. You also need to condition the glass, especially if it smells a bit stale or musty.
Do this by quickly rinsing the glass with wine. Swirl the wine around, making sure all sides of the glass have been covered.
Get the right stemware.
Drinking wine from a plastic cup may be acceptable at a cookout, but a budding wine connoisseur such as yourself should know and do better.
If you don’t believe us, try this little experiment. Get a mug, an old-fashioned glass (rocks glass), and a wine stem (the nicest you have). Then pour your favorite wine into each container.
How did each one taste? Did you notice any difference in terms of flavors and aromas?
If you did, great! That means your wine palate’s working.
Now it’s time to get some proper stemware. Here’s a handy infographic about which glasses pair best with different types of wine.
See, swirl, smell, sip, and savor.
To become a wine expert, you need to master the five S’s of wine tasting.
- Seeing. You can tell a lot about the wine you’re drinking just from its color alone. Generally, older whites are darker while older reds are lighter.Younger wines are also brighter in color. The reason for this is oxidation. You know how some fruits like apples turn brown when exposed to air? The same process happens to wine.The longer a wine is stored, the more air is introduced into the bottle, which is responsible for the color change.Other factors that contribute to a wine’s color include grape variety and the process used to make the wine (e.g. oak barrel aging).
- Swirling. Why do wine enthusiasts try to master the art of the swirl?It’s not just an affectation. Swirling allows the wine’s esters (aromatic compounds) to be released into the air. Also, by swirling, oxygen binds with the tannin molecules in the wine, making it “softer.”Tannins, you see, make the wine taste dry, bitter, and astringent. They are what you taste when you drink strong black tea or very dark chocolate. Swirling for four or five seconds, softens the wine and concentrates the aromas.
- Smelling. If you can smell fresh laundry from your glass, it’s most likely your shirt and not the wine.You should be able to identify citrus notes if it’s a white wine.Do you smell lemon? Lime? Pineapple? Grapefruit?Warmer places tend to produce whites with ripe smells, whereas cooler locales are known more for citrusy wines. Sometimes, whites also give off hints of oak and vanilla.For red wines, you can get berry scents such as cherry, strawberry, blackberry, and plum. But those are a bit of a giveaway, even to non-oenophiles. To impress your friends, try to see if you can also pinpoint earthier aromas such as chocolate, coffee, and smoke.
- Sipping. To become a wine expert means to resist the temptation of knocking back glass after glass of wine as fast as you can.Take your time with each sip. With the first one, tilt your head back then swirl the wine in your mouth. Don’t gulp it down like a thirsty man in the desert.Now, remember the notes you’ve smelled. Can you taste them in the wine? How’s the texture?Does it feel smooth? Silky? Dry? Rough? Lush?Without looking at the label, can you gauge the alcohol level of the wine? Is the taste light or shallow? Or is it dense and concentrated?If you can answer these confidently, you’ve got more than enough to wow your friends with your wine smarts.
- Savoring. So take note. It’s not aftertaste, it’s finish. And length is the time it takes for the finish to hang around.Tip: Good wines have a nice finish and a lengthy stay. Poor wines, on the other hand, have little to no finish and leaves quickly.The most important thing of course, is to enjoy the wine. Don’t become a wine expert just to impress people. When you cultivate a passion for wine, you should do it for your own pleasure and not for anything else.
Become a wine expert: a few more tips
No one becomes a wine expert overnight. But you can hasten the process by trying as many wine varities as you can, joining a tasting group, and attending free tastings offered by many wine shops.
You can also read, read, and read. There are a lot of wine books out there. You can check these out if you don’t know where to start.
If you prefer apps, there are also good ones such as Delectable and Vivino. All you need to do is take a photo of the wine’s label and the apps will supply reviews, ratings, and tasting notes for that particular wine.
Check too, if there’s a wine school in your area or if that’s too much for you, look for local adult schools that hold wine appreciation classes.
There is no one single path to becoming a wine expert. You can go at it at your own pace and don’t forget to enjoy every bit of the journey.