Wine Tasting Rules: The Do’s and Don’ts

by Kelvin Teo | Last Updated: May 6, 2022

Although you can just chuck a glass of wine as if it were a shooter, the best way to enjoy it is by taking your time. After all, every bottle, glass and drop of wine is unique, and they offer dozens of flavours and scents, all out there to be discovered.

To enjoy wine at its fullest, you need to know the wine tasting rules. Wine tasting etiquette has been around for ages, and it works — when tasted correctly, wine is indeed tastier! Here are the most common wine tasting rules and the 5 steps to wine tasting.

5 Steps To Wine Tasting

  1. Appearance. Pour the wine into a crystal wine glass and inspect it against a white background. The wine’s colour can give hints about its condition and its consistency. Legs or tears forming on the glass might suggest higher alcohol/glycerin levels.
  2. Nose. This is the most crucial step in wine tasting. Stick your nose into the wine glass and see what you pick up. Look for fruit scents and then focus on non-fruit and spice aromas. This is an excellent opportunity to detect if something’s not right as well.
  3. Palate. Take a sip and assess the wine’s alcohol level, acidity, sweetness and texture. You can also pick up scents retro-nasally through your back palate.
  4. Finish. Evaluate the length and complexity of the aftertaste. Concentrated wines tend to be more persistent, a sign of age-worthiness, sophistication and quality.
  5. Sum it up. After tasting the wine, put the information gathered to good use and answer the most critical questions: Did you like the wine? What would you pair it with? Is this wine for everyday enjoyment or memorable occasions? Would you buy it again?

List of Wine Tasting Rules

Wine Tasting Rules for Tastings at Home

  1. Taste wine with like-minded people. Share your impressions and listen to others’ opinions. We all have a different sensibility for particular scents and flavours, and we all taste differently, so taste and compare your impressions.
  2. Take notes. This is the best way to become a better wine taster. Notes allow you to go back to previous experiences and compare different wine notes. Make sure you write down the flavours and scents in the wine and your overall impression as well. Write down the producer’s name, wine region, grape variety and vintage.
  3. Taste, don’t drink. Don’t just drink wine but taste it consciously. Taste slow and appreciate every sip. In professional tastings, people won’t even swallow the wine; they’ll spit it out.
  4. Serve the wine at the right temperature. Make sure you serve wine at the right temperature, between 4°C and 10°C for whites and between 10°C and 16°C for reds. Too cold, and any wine will appear dull; too hot, and it will taste overly alcoholic.
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  5. Serve wine in the right wine glass. The wine glass can change how you perceive wine’s flavour and aroma. Large wine glasses are best for bold, full-bodied red wine, and smaller wine glasses are best for white wine and rosé.

Wine Tasting Etiquette at Wine Stores, Restaurants and Wineries

  1. Watch what you eat. Avoid eating intensely flavourful or fragrant food before a wine tasting. Garlic, curries, spicy food, ginger and other aromatic ingredients can affect the way you perceive wine. Make sure you don’t show up on an empty stomach, though, but eat something light.
  2. Drink lots of water. Tasting wine can be dangerous, as you can get intoxicated with just a few glasses, especially if you’re not used to drinking wine. Drinking water will prevent dehydration and will keep your head from spinning.
  3. Follow the 5 steps to wine tasting. Take your time and evaluate the wine with all your senses. If tasting several wines, pace yourself. Taste at your own speed. Don’t rush it.
  4. Don’t wear cologne or perfume. Strong scents can be distracting for other wine tasters and yourself. Avoid perfumes and strong spray deodorants. You probably won’t be asked to leave, but you’ll ruin the experience for everyone around you. Some wine scents are incredibly delicate, and you don’t want to miss them.
  5. Don’t show off. We get it; you know a lot about wine. Well, a formal wine tasting might not be the time or place to show off. You might be the smartest person in the room, but you there’s always something to learn, so listen up!
  6. Buy the wine. If you’re invited to a complimentary wine tasting or visit a winery, you’ll have the opportunity to take a few bottles home. If you enjoyed the wine, buy it. You’ll surely be invited to other wine tastings, and you’ll be supporting the venues putting together the wine tastings in the first place.
  7. Be open-minded. Don’t judge a bottle of wine for its label. Wine needs not be expensive to be enjoyable. Also, step out of your comfort zone and taste wines from different countries made with unusual grapes. Great wine can come from anywhere in the world, and it can be made with any grape. Don’t be picky.
  8. There’s no such thing as a dumb question. Don’t scuff at other people’s questions or comments. When it comes to wine, we’re all still learning. On the other hand, wine tastings are always opportunities to ask your own questions, and that’s okay as long as you take your turn.
  9. Share the love. Wine tastings in wine shops, restaurants and even wineries are only successful as long as wine lovers find out about them. Wine tasting etiquette also covers making sure you bring a plus one, just as if it’s okay first!

Wine Tasting Rules, Rule

Although learning wine tasting etiquette will surely help you appreciate your glass of wine a bit more, some rules can be bent, and others can be broken. Wine is also about enjoying yourself, so, unless you’re in a formal wine tasting, forget about the 5 steps to wine tasting and sip away. Your wine, your rules.

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Of course, some wine tasting rules matter more than others, and they’re meant to help you make the most of your bottle of wine. Call some friends over, pop open a few bottles of wine and get tasting. The number one rule about wine? Have fun! Wine always brings people together!

Kelvin Teo founded Filled With Wine™ because one summer night, he noticed that his glass of wine tasted funny. It was only after he discovered that he stored his bottle wrongly that he realised the importance of proper wine storage. Since then, he has taken the art of wine drinking seriously and is now on a quest to help fellow wine lovers achieve the best drinking experience possible.