Wine Wednesday: #4 Simple steps for novice wine tasters

This article follows on from Only an Empiricist Really Understands Wine Tasting, and is aimed at increasing your own enjoyment of wine tasting so as to be able to compare, remember, recall, and rebuy wines already tasted.

Wine tasting is as “old as the hills” but still often leads to disagreement between professionals and confusion amongst novices:

“Aristotle proposed a sensory tasting defined by the four elements (air, water, fire, and earth) further deepened by the Roman noblewoman Lucretia in the first century BCE.”

“Although the practice of tasting is as old as the history of wine, the term “tasting” first appeared in 1519. The methodology of wine tasting was was formalized by the 18th century when Linnaeus, Poncelet, and others brought an understanding of tasting up to date.”

Credit: Mike Payne

The major issue is being able to discern and discriminate between wines you taste. For example as you experience a variety of wines you will build up your own mental library and be able to discern the difference between a Shiraz, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot, or between a Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay and a Pinot Grigio. Then as experiences grow you will be able to discriminate between good and less good wines of the same grape, or Pinot Noir wines from Burgundy, New Zealand and California. There is nothing magical about being able to do this, just having lots of different experiences, following our step by step process, and keeping a record. What could be better than an evening with a few friends and 3 different wines but similar in some specific way. Here’s a few examples:

1 A Sancerre, plus a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and one from USA

2 A red burgundy, plus a Pinot Noir from New Zealand and one from USA

3 A Chablis plus an unoaked Chardonnay from Australia, one from New Zealand AND one from Chile

Learn how to discern and discriminate between wines of THE SAME grape but different countries, regions, winemakers or vintages/years.

Criteria and The 6S Process

A great deal of basic human activity is conducted in “processes”, a series of sequential steps which ensure the activity is efficient and effective. Think about boiling a kettle or making a cup of tea. Or how about driving your car to work in the morning? Each of these is a process with a definite first step, intermediate steps, and a final step. But we take them all for granted as “experienced tea makers or car drivers” forgetting that we had to learn the steps then practice practice practice before they became sub conscious and automatic to us. Learning to taste a wine is identical, there is a series of steps to follow so that over time your expertise will improve ….. so give it a go!

The Simple 6S of Wine Tasting

  1. See … *colour, *hue, *intensity, *clarity
  2. Swirl …. to release aromas
  3. Sniff … clean, fresh, YOUR perception of *fruit or *floral or *spice or *earthy/vegetable
  4. Sip …. is there ….*Dry or Sweet
    1. *Acidity low/medium/high
    1. *Tannin low/medium/high
  5. Savour …. is there ..*Fruitiness yes/no
    1. *Floral yes/no
    1. *Spice yes/no
    1. *Earthy-Vegetable yes/no
    1. *Finish short/medium/long
  6. Summarise …… *Like/Dislike and YOUR overall *score/100

Best Tasting App

There are lots of apps for your smartphone that can help you with wine tasting whether you are novice or expert. Some are to keep a record of your own wine collection or history, some help you to identify a wine and see what others think of it, and some guide you through the tasting process. helps you with the latter providing scales to slide or items to tap. No typing needed except to enter the wine name, price etc. I’ve written a previous article about it here Is This The Best Wine Tasting App You can get it on the iPhone App Store or Google Play

Categories: Tips, Wine

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4 replies

  1. I can tell the difference between red and white. Is that a good start? I don’t like rosé but I did once have a Mateus bottle with a candle in it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done. This was a great explanation of tasting even for someone like me, whose wine experience is limited to a few favorite bottles from the grocery store.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Austin, there’s too much bullshit waved around by wine professionals that confuses instead of clarifies! I often get slagged off of saying it though.


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