How to taste wine

Drinking wine and tasting wine are two very different things. Wine tasting is a tool to help you figure out what you want to drink more (or less) of in the future. So it can be useful to learn a few basic rules around how to taste wine.

Clothes shopping is a good analogy. Very few of us are content to pick something out from a rack, drape it in front of us in the nearest mirror and trust that it’s going to look great on. A tasting session is the wine equivalent of a trip to the changing rooms. When you taste wines, you’re trying them on for size, checking the style and feel are just right for you.

Our handy guide to tasting wine is all about finding your perfect fit. Full of insider tips and tricks, here’s what you need to know about how to taste wine…

Ridgeview English Sparkline Wine, Signature Trio

1. Set the scene

Without getting too fussy, it helps to create a good environment for wine tasting. You want to be able to see, smell and taste the wine as clearly as possible, so a space with lots of natural light, a clean white surface and no strong background aromas is ideal. (At professional tasting events, participants are discouraged from wearing any kind of scent on the day to avoid overpowering the wines.)

The right vessel makes a difference too. Flutes are your go-to when pouring sparkling wines for pleasure, but when it comes to tasting, we prefer to use a standard, spotlessly clean white wine glass. With a wide bowl tapering up to a narrower opening, all those delicious aromas get to fill the glass.

Then there are preparations for the wine itself. For almost all of our Classic Method English sparkling wine, that means chilling a bottle down to 5-7oC. The honourable exception is our Sparkling Red Reserve, which should be served at 8-10oC. 

Finally, if your tasting session involves more than one wine, you’ll want some palate cleansers like a glass of water and a few dry crackers. Now for the fun part – tasting the wine.

2. Observe closely

The old saying that we taste with our eyes is certainly true in wine tasting. After pouring, hold your glass at 45 degrees against a white surface and take a good look at what’s inside. 

For Ridgeview’s style of sparkling wine, it should be clear and bright. In terms of hue, you’ll find our white wines anywhere between pale lemon and rich gold in colour; our rosés in delicate salmon tones and our Sparkling Red Reserve a vibrant ruby. 

For whites, golden tones can tell you something about the proportion of red grapes in the blend, or perhaps about maturity, since wines tend to burnish with age. 

Note the effervescence of the bubbles too. They should form a steady stream of lively little pearls rising up from the base of the glass – a sure sign of quality.

3. Take a sniff

Don’t be shy. Get your nose right into the rim of the glass, take a steady breath in and see what aromas pop into your head. There’s no right or wrong answer here. We’re hardwired to make familiar sensory associations, so what you smell will be determined by things you’ve smelled before. 

It might be worth having a few aroma categories in mind when you’re sniffing. Sparkling wines typically have fruity, floral, spicy, yeasty, nutty or dairy aromas. 

If you feel like you’re having to go hunting to detect anything at all, it may say something about the intensity of the wine.

Or it may be that you need to give the glass a very gentle swirl to agitate the aromas a little more.

4. Take a sip

This is not the moment to glug. It only takes a small sip to get the flavours dancing round your mouth. To help, you may want to swirl the wine around your mouth; you may even want to pucker up and slurp some air in through the wine to encourage it to open up. Even before you swallow, you’ll get some immediate impressions. Run through those aroma categories again.

Does it taste the same as it smells? Has anything new arrived on the palate? How intense are the flavours? Do you detect any sweetness? Does it feel clean and angular or soft and creamy in your mouth?  And how are those all-important bubbles?

5. Swallow and Savour

How a wine ‘finishes’ says a lot about its quality. The longer it lingers pleasantly on the tongue, the better. Some wines can go on an extraordinary odyssey after you’ve swallowed them, with new flavours and impressions emerging and mingling for minutes on end! 

High acidity is a hallmark of Ridgeview wines and you’ll also get a strong sense of this on the finish. It’s the refreshing, juicy quality of the wine and you’ll notice it if your mouth waters following the swallowing. 

5. Compare and Contrast

When tasting wine, the only question that really matters is: Do I like it? Your subjective opinion on any wine should be your only steer on whether or not it’s one for you. Of course, you can judge a wine on its individual merits but it can be more rewarding to taste a selection and pick your own personal winner. Often trying wines in sequence is the best way to highlight their relative qualities and point you towards your preferred style. Plus, of course, there’s a lot more fun to be had in the process.

Ridgeview English sparkling wine cases

Tastings at Ridgeview

For the ultimate sense of place, there’s no better place to taste than at the original home of the wine. As cultural experiences go, it doesn’t get much better than this!

Put your wine tasting into practice with a visit to our welcoming Winery Shop. We offer complimentary tastings overlooking the vines where you can sniff, sip and select your sparkling wine of choice.

Or for the full Ridgeview experience, why not book yourself onto one of our Tour & Tasting Experiences or a visit to our restaurant, The Rows & Vine

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