Updated on: 24 Jan 2022

What Is A Wine Flight and Why Is It Called That?

We explain wine flights and recommend some awesome wine selections you can use for an unforgettable tasting party.

What Is A Wine Flight and Why Is It Called That?

Have you ever wondered what a wine flight is? It's a slightly awkward term that a lot of people aren't aware of.

We’re here today to shed some light on the matter and reveal once and for all what a wine flight is and where its name comes from.

What is a Wine Flight?

A wine flight is basically a selection of wines.

Most commonly found at a wine tasting, a wine flight is usually presented on a board or tray, perhaps with tasting notes and accompanying food.

wine flight with cheese

But the wine flight is not just any group of wine. It is a group of similar wines, typically between three and eight but sometimes, even more, brought together for tasting and comparison purposes.

It’s hard to tell who attributed the term “flight” to wines in the first place. Evidence suggests the name was a random choice based on the simple fact that flight means a “group of.”

However, some romantics believe the term flight was chosen because it makes people think of travel. Perhaps the travel of the wine over the years and its vintage characteristics.

I’m not sure if the inventor of the term really meant that, but now that we’ve done some etymology, perhaps it’s time to find out more about what a wine flight is for a wine aficionado or sommelier.

wine glasses for tasting

What does a Wine Flight Mean for a Sommelier?

For sommeliers and wine business owners, as well as for wine lovers around the world, a wine flight means a special kind of wine tasting that brings together three or more wines usually with a common theme tying them together.

The purpose of a wine flight is to educate the wine lovers and their taste buds to recognize the most subtle hints in a wine.

This comparative wine tasting can also be done of the two variants of the same wine. For instance, you can compare an oaked with an unoaked chardonnay. Or a young Merlot with a vintage kind.

You can compare the characteristic of the same wine produced in different regions. Such as a French Syrah with an Australian Shiraz. And the list could go on and on.

There are dozens of wine flight possibilities, and it all comes down to preference.

How to Organize a Wine Flight Tasting?

Throwing a wine flight party at your home is a great way to socialize with friends and have fun while learning more on your favorite beverage.

It all starts with a wine tasting sheet. There are many ready to use templates, or you can create your own. In the latter circumstance, draw two, three or more circles at the top of the sheet, corresponding to the number of wines you want to include in the flight. The circles serve to hold the glasses, so you don’t confound them.

Then, divide the sheet in three sections under each circle.

The first section corresponds to the looks. Here, you must note the color of the wine and its intensity, the viscosity, and any other characteristics you might notice, including wine sediment.

The second section corresponds to the smell. Here, you must note the aromas you feel in the wine, whether they are sweet or pungent, flowery, fruity, or spicy.

wine tasting outside

Then, the third section corresponds to the taste and must include all details regarding the sweetness, sapidity, acidity, tannin, alcohol, and body of the wine.

The last section on the bottom of each column must allow you to note any particular characteristics of the wine you’re tasting or any notes you want to remember.

Once you have the sheets, pour each wine in a glass and place each glass in a circle. Write the name of the wine under the circle to keep track of what you’re tasting, then start your session.

friends doing a wine tasting

Pick up the first glass and conduct a visual inspection. Note down all you can see, from clarity to color and viscosity. If there is anything unusual with the wine, note it down in the bottom section in the corresponding column.

Continue with the smell and write down all aromas identified. Then, taste the wine and note all the flavors and particulars of the taste you were able to identify in the wine.

Eat a piece of neutral cheese, such as vintage parmesan, then move on to the next wine and conduct the inspection as described above. Once you finished tasting all wines, take the wine flight sheet and compare the wines between them.

This tasting method will give you a clear picture of the subtle differences between two similar wines, or of the similarities between two apparently different wines.

wine tasting event

Wine Flight Ideas

A wine flight can literally involve any wines you like. Here are a few ideas to inspire you.

Cold Climate Vs. Warm Climate Riesling

Riesling is the German wine by excellence, but the surprising characteristics made it popular all over the world. 

To compare the differences of Rieslings produced in different regions, choose one from Germany and one from Southern Italy.

This wine flight will teach you how the warmth of the climate and abundance of sun make this crisp and flavorful wine sweeter.

The body of the wine changes too, while many other differences can also be noticed during the comparative tasting.

Riesling Wines 2

Oaked Vs. Unoaked Chardonnay

A great comparative wine flight idea to help you note the subtle differences between a wine matured in oak casks and one matured in metal casks or in the bottle.

Source the wine in the same winery but make if you want to make a true comparison between flavors.

You’ll learn how maturation in a barrel can enhance the flavors and aromas of a wine.

Young Vs. Aged Port

Fortified wine is not so famous, but it’s still interesting to discover the profound differences between a young and an aged Port.

For the best results, choose two Port wines from the same winery. In this way, you’ll know both wines were made from the same type of grapes grown in the same soil.

The comparative tasting will show you how a wine evolves in time, how it changes its body, enhances its flavors and enriches the bouquet.

Couple enjoying wine tasting.

Shiraz Vs. Syrah Wine

Two wines, two names, same grapes. So, what’s the difference? A Shiraz vs. Syrah wine flight will help you understand.

But to reveal a bit of the mystery, Shiraz wine is obtained from late harvested grapes. This makes the wine sweeter and gives it jam and blackberry notes.

Syrah is harvested early. Therefore the grapes maintain some of their herbaceous flavors. A comparative tasting can help you discover more about the differences between these two delicious wines.

man choosing wine

French Vs. Argentinian Bordeaux

If you want to add versatility to a wine flight, just make a comparison between Bordeaux Blend wines obtained in different regions of the world. Such as in France and in Argentina.

Both countries are famous for their wines, and both of them are famous for their Bordeaux blends.

A Bordeaux blend wine can be either red or white. Therefore you can even choose what type of wine to compare.

This wine tasting can help you understand the differences between wine blends in the various wine regions around the world, not only because of the terroir, but also because the proportions of wines, and even the blends, might change.

Now you know all about wine flights all you need to do to create your own is get your favorite wines, get some friends round, and throw a comparative tasting party. Have fun!

About the Author Tim Edison

Although not having any formal training in wine, Tim has developed an irrefutable love of wine and interest in anything related to it ever since his late teens. Coming from a family of wine lovers, it was from a young age that he got exposed to wine and the culture that goes with it. Tim has travelled to dozens of wine regions across the world including those in France, Italy, California, Australia, and South Africa. It is with great joy that he hopes to share those experiences here on wineturtle.com and take you along on the journey for a second time!

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