“Wine is sunlight, held together by water.”

Galileo

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We’ve all seen people puckering and gurning around a table of wines, looking all serious, before neatly spitting out into a communal spittoon; but what are they looking for? Can anyone do it, and will you look really silly if you swallow?

We have put together five simple tips for wine tasting to help steer you through this dark art. Summarised, it’s just a case of smelling it, then getting the wine to all parts of your mouth and simply deciding a) whether you like it or not, and b) whether you need to drive home!

Tasting tip #1

Look at it. Say ‘Hi’. Is it light or dark? Does it cling to the sides of the glass (generally speaking the more it creates trails [legs] down the side of the glass the more alcohol it has in it!). If it is a white wine, is it greener or more yellow? You may look at five different chardonnays at one tasting event, but each may look completely different in colour. If it is brown, warm and hard to see through, then this is tea and should be put down immediately!

Tasting tip #2

Smell it. What does it remind you of? There is literally no right or wrong answer. This is really fun as everyone finds something different, and there is an unspoken bonding experience to be had when someone else can smell the same scent as you! Imagine a cross between snap and really bad ‘Bake Off’ recipes. “Blackberry and leather!” or “Cat pee and elderflower!”

Tasting tip #3

Taste it. Different parts of your mouth pick up different flavours (salty, sweet, sour etc) so swilling it around your mouth means you can pick up lots more variation between the wines. You may hear the word ‘tannic’ or ‘tannins’ at a tasting. This is the friction feeling you get in your mouth with some wines. Wines that are more ‘tannic’ will almost feel like they are drying your mouth out. Some people like this, and some don’t. Again, wine tastings are all about personal preference.

Tasting tip #4

To spit or not to spit. Again, this is a personal choice. The practice of spitting your mouthful of wine out into a spittoon allows you to keep a clearer head as you are ultimately consuming far less alcohol. Handy if you plan to taste over 50 wines in one evening! A wine tasting is one of the few British events where spitting (in a spittoon) isn’t frowned upon, so don’t be shy.

Tasting tip #5

Write it down. You may think you will remember every wine you have tasted in fine detail by the time you have worked around the entire offering, but trust us, you won’t. Just putting some key words down, or even marking each wine out of ten will at least enable you to go back and remember your favourites.

There you have it. Look, smell and taste, and all you need to care about is whether you like a wine or not. Maybe not such a dark art after all?