How to Talk Confidently at Your Next Wine Tasting

How many times have you been in this situation: Someone you want to impress gives you a glass of wine at an event and, after watching you taste it, asks what you think. If you’re like a lot of people, your palms will start to sweat, your mouth will get dry, and your mind will go blank as you desperately try to think of something intelligent to say. The more you try (and the more people start to pay attention to the situation), the worse things get and you end up feeling embarrassed and in need of the rest of the bottle of wine just to wash away your shame.

I know I’ve been there and I also know that there’s no reason why a perceived lack of wine knowledge should ruin your enjoyment of it (or your enjoyment of a fun party!). That’s why I decided to give you five easy steps that you can follow immediately so you never have to fear talking about wine again!

Step #1: Relax

This is the easiest step in theory, but can be very hard to implement. It’s important to remember that wine is subjective and there are no wrong answers. That doesn’t mean there aren’t those who are going to try to make you think your opinion is wrong (there are always those people), but you don’t have to listen to them. Remember, it’s just wine. The more everyone drinks around you, the less they’ll care or even remember what you’re saying, so just relax and have fun.

Step #2: Give it a sniff

Now that you’re relaxed, take some time and smell the wine. 85-90% of what we think we “taste” in a wine is actually what we “smell”. So simply ask yourself: “Do I like the way this wine smells?” And why do you like or dislike the smell of this wine? Don’t worry if you are a beginner and you can’t quite articulate why, simply say “I like (or dislike) how this wine smells. I don’t know how to describe it YET, but it reminds me of _________.”

The key here is the word “yet”. Your mind is very powerful and if you tell yourself “I don’t know why” or “I can’t describe the smell,” your brain will label it as impossible and stop trying. Saying to yourself “I don’t know it YET leaves room in your brain to continue searching for an answer. You can follow it up by saying, “It reminds me of ______.” Go ahead and say whatever comes to mind, no matter how silly you think it is. It reminds you of your dog Buddy when he’s wet, for example, or the smell of a new book, or even dirty socks! Just let it flow! You’ll be amazed at how your brain then makes the connection and you will see yourself getting better and better at describing what you smell.

Let me say it again, 85-90% of wine tasting is what you smell. Did you know that humans can detect one trillion different scents? Yes, that’s trillion with a T! We’ll spend more time on this topic in the future, but I wanted to introduce the concept now so you understand how important this step is.

Step #3: Taste

After you’ve thoroughly smelled the wine, you can then give it a little taste and ask yourself if you like it. Why do you like or dislike it? Taste is not as complex as smell and what you taste is usually limited to bitter, sweet, sour, salt/umami or a combination of these. What makes someone like or dislike a wine is almost all based on unique preference. For example, I tend to like a wine that is high in acidity (sour) and low on sweetness. A lot of my friends here in California, however, love the opposite: wines high in sweet and low in sour. As I said before, wine is subjective and it’s about figuring out what YOU like.

If you stop the video (or stop reading) now, you’re already equipped and ready to talk confidently about any wine! The last two tips are just the cherry on top and sure to impress even the most wine-educated of your friends.

Step #4: Structure

After smelling and tasting the wine, ask yourself if you like the structure. There are just two things you need to pay attention to here. First is the amount of tannins. Wines high in tannins suck the moisture out of your mouth and leave it feeling dry while those low in tannins make your mouth feel silky and smooth. The next thing to pay attention to is alcohol content. A high-alcohol wine is generally described as being “full-bodied” while one lower in alcohol is considered “light-bodied.” To better illustrate this, imagine the difference between how whole milk, 2%, and skim milk feel in your mouth. Whole milk is “full-bodied” while skim is “light-bodied.”

Step #5: Finish

The final step is to determine how long the aromas lingered after you swallowed. Did it all taste like it was balanced? Did you feel the wine was complex, with many layers of aromas and flavors? Or did the taste just disappear, leaving you without much of an impression? Again, simply say how you feel without trying to use any fancy language.


And there you have it! An easy five-step process that will help you enjoy wine and talk about it confidently no matter what type of situation you’re in. Just to make sure you remember, let’s run down the steps quickly one last time:


  1. Relax and remember wine is subjective and there is no wrong answer.
  2. Do I like the way this wine smells?”
    1. Why do I like or dislike the smell of this wine?
    2. “I like (or dislike) how this wine smells, I don’t know how to describe why that is YET, but it reminds me of _________”
  3. “Do I like the way it tastes?”
    1. Why do I like or dislike the taste of this wine? Bitter, sweet, acidity, or salty?
  4. “Do I like the structure of this wine?”
    1. Tannin (dryness in the mouth)
    2. Alcohol (full, medium, or light-bodied)
  5. How was the finish?
    1. Length
    2. Balance
    3. Complexity

Watch the video here -

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