Written by: Tim Edison

Updated: May 10, 2023

6 Ways to Improve Your Wine Tasting Skills

A sommelier appreciating a red wine

I remember being confused and a little overwhelmed with wine tasting. I was told that I should taste specific notes but I just couldn’t identify them.

But this is just a stage that every wine drinker goes through in the beginning.

Wine tasting is a skill that can be learned and improved upon with practice. Just like with any other hobby or interest, the more you do it, the better you will become at it. 

Learn how to improve your wine tasting skills with these practical tips.

1. Do Comparative Wine Tastings

Comparative wine tasting is one of the best ways to improve your ability to distinguish subtle differences in wines. 

The idea is to taste wines that share a common theme. It’s a bit like a science experiment where the aim is to keep as many factors constant as possible in order to study this one theme.

An example would be exploring the differences between wines made from the same grape. Syrah and Shiraz, for instance, are made from the same grape but have subtle differences between them that result from the regions they are grown in (specifically the terroir and climate).

Another great wine tasting comparison to make is to compare the effects of aging on wine. To do this you need the same wine represented by different vintage years. How does the 2021 compare to the 1998 or the 1995?

Probably the most popular (and the easiest) comparative wine tasting idea is comparing oaked and unoaked Chardonnay. Comparing these wines side by side allows you to focus on the flavors and aromas that oaking has on wine.

You can find more comparative wine tasting ideas our guide.

Woman taking notes about wines

2. Try New Wines

Now, I just love bold red wines and there was a time when I drank very little other than Shiraz. 

I mean just stick with what you love and you’ll never be disappointed right?

That’s true, but you’ll also learn very little. 

The scope of wine available these days is just enormous and in order to even just appreciate the wines you love properly you should try as many different wines as possible. You won’t love every wine but you’ll definitely surprise yourself.

So join a wine club and get out of your comfort zone. You’ll soon expand both your sense of taste and your wine vocabulary.

Man appreciating a red wine

3. Learn About Winemaking 

In order to truly understand the flavor and aroma components of wine you should know how these characteristics are produced.

Factors like the grape varietal, the way the grapes are grown, and the place in which they are grown have a huge impact. But, so too do the choices made during the winemaking process.

You’ll be surprised how satisfying it is to identify a specific note and then relate it back to how it was produced.

By knowing about grape varietals and their ‘signature’ characteristics you’ll also have a level of expectation before you even taste anything. Immediately upon tasting a wine you’ll know right away if something isn’t right. You’ll also be able to appreciate characteristics that work really well.

Sorting grapes for winemaking

4. Keep Notes

Get in the habit of assessing wine, even if it’s just a bottle in front of the TV. A quick appreciation of the appearance, aroma, flavor, finish, structure, and an overall score/impression only takes a couple of minutes.

By doing this you’ll improve your wine tasting skills and have a record of wines that you love and loathe!

Try and be specific with your descriptions. For example, instead of ‘red fruit’ focus on the specific fruit. It’s hard at first but you’ll improve in no time.

Here at Wine Turtle, we've got an awesome guide to taking wine tasting notes that includes a free printable template to use too.

People writing wine notes

5. Drink Wine With Friends

This isn’t only fun it’s also a great way to learn. We don’t all enjoy the same things and we don’t always experience the same sensations. This means we each have our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to tasting wine. This idea is supported by the fact that most good wineries have multiple winemakers.

So a friend might pick up on a note you overlooked and you get that “aha!” moment of realization that you would have otherwise missed. Compare notes, debate, argue, laugh, and have fun!

friends doing a wine tasting

6. Familiarize Yourself With Best Practices

Do you know the recommended serving temperature of red wine? Do white wines need to be aerated? 

To make sure you experience wine at its best, make sure you’re familiar with the basics of serving it.

This goes for the basics of appreciating and assessing wine too. 

Never fill a glass beyond ⅓ when evaluating a wine. This is so that you can give it a good swirl in the glass without fear of spills.

First, hold up the glass and assess its appearance. Look at the color, intensity, and viscosity.

Give it a swirl and see how it coats the glass. Slow ‘drips’ that coat the glass indicate a full-bodied wine.

Give it another swirl, what do you smell? Be as specific as possible.

Take a small drink. Swish the wine around in your mouth. You can also breathe in through your mouth at the same time to oxygenate the wine and ‘open it up'.

What do you taste? Again, it’s best to be specific. What about the structure? Evaluate the acidity, tannin, alcohol content, and body.

Finally, how’s the finish? What are the lingering flavors and sensations? How long do they last?

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About the Author Tim Edison

Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).

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