Vino 101: Wine tasting tips – part 1

What could be more exciting than a day of wine tasting with your BFFs? Maybe a one-on-one soccer lesson from Diego Forlan, but I digress…

Is it hot in here? Credit: Fotitos21

Last night I ran into a fellow Latina blogger and her über-wonderful mom. The striking pair had just attended a culinary trade event in Beverly Hills, where industry representatives from wine labels and restaurants were plying their wares. The ladies found the place crawling with that pesky critter, vinus snobus, a.k.a. the wine snob.


What’s a chica to do?  Whether you’re road tripping to Napa, tangoing through the vineyards of Mendoza or visiting your neighborhood wine shop, these three tips can give you a confidence boost on your next wine tasting journey.

1. Whites before reds.


If you’re asked which wine you’d like to try first, always taste white wines before reds. Why? Because white wines are lighter in body than reds, and if you start with a heavier red wine, your palate will miss the more delicate flavors and aromas of the white wines. It would be like having your main course before your dinner salad.

2. Remember the five S’s: See. Swirl. Sniff. Sip. Spit.


We’ve all seen those self-important dweebs making a Shakespearean drama out of sipping a glass of wine. You can learn to appreciate wine and its lovely, delicious components without the theatrics:

See. A wine’s visual characteristics can tell you a lot about what’s in your glass. For example, the younger a white wine is, the paler it will look in your glass. Conversely, the older a red wine is, the lighter it will appear.

Swirl. The reason people swirl wine around in their glass is to release the little odor molecules that give wine its flavor. Some red wines may need a little more swirling if the bottle has just been opened. The only wine you don’t want to swirl is a sparkling wine. Exposure to air will cause the wine to lose its fizziness and some of its characteristic flavor.

Sniff. Smelling a wine can give you more clues about its origins and how it was made. If you’re smelling vanilla, cedar or tobacco, chances are the wine was aged in oak barrels. If you’re smelling a lot of fruit, it’s possible the wine comes from grapes grown in a warmer climate. Mineral aromas like gravel, flint or wet stone may mean the wine is from the Old World, or a European wine region.

Sip. Notice I said sip and not gulp. A smaller sip allows you to discreetly swirl the wine around in your mouth so that you can pick up more aromas, and thus  get a better sense for the wine’s flavor.

Spit. I know, I know…why would you want to waste perfectly good wine? Read on…

3. Your new BFF: The dump bucket. If you’ve ever started your winery-hopping early in the day, you may have noticed how quiet tasting rooms are around 11 a.m. By about 2 or 3 p.m., the decibel level is noticeably louder. Wine loosens us up and makes us chatty. I’ll drink to that!  But if you overdo it, your ability to distinguish flavor characteristics plummets. Save the major drinking for dinner later on.

Oh, and winery staff will not get offended if you spit or dump part of the wine they pour. And if they do, they probably could use a glass of wine. ¡Salud!


Stay tuned for Wine Tasting Tips, part deux!


6 thoughts on “Vino 101: Wine tasting tips – part 1

  1. Ahh Diego Forlan…Becks has got nothing on him.

      1. Pamela, I really like this blog….and the soccer player makes it even better! Jeanie

      2. Thanks so much for reading, Jeanie! I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog–and Diego Forlan! xoxo

  2. I will be substituting the S of SPIT with the S for SWALLOW 🙂

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