Whether you’re a beginner to wine tasting or have been a wine drinker for years, I believe that in order to truly taste the full essence of wine. You need to understand different types of wine and how to enjoy wine using multiple senses. By the time you’re done reading this guide to wine tasting, you’ll be an expert wine taster!

Let’s get started. Most importantly, before tasting wine you should have a basic understanding of the different types of wine out there. In a general sense, wine is organized into three different color types: red, white, and pink. Now, here’s what you need to know about each one.

Red wines are made with darker colored grapes. This means that red wines have bolder, earthier flavors than that of white or rosé wines. Ideally served at cellar temperature (55º-60ºF), but they can be enjoyed at room temperature as well. Most red wines pair well with red meats, like steak and starchy foods. Note: to get cellar temperature quickly, take your room temperature wine and put in the refrigerator for 20 mins.

White wines are made with green grapes, and can have an almost clear coloring to a golden yellow. You want to serve white wines chilled (refrigerator temperature), as this will highlight their more delicate, lighter and fruitier flavors. Seafood, fruit, desserts, and most salads pair well with white wines.

Pink wines can be made from one or both white and red grapes. Ones with a label of "Rosé" are made entirely from red wine grapes, while wines that are called "Blush" are typically a blend of both white and red grapes. These wines make a great pairing to just about everything.

Now that you understand the basic three colors, let’s talk about varietals or “subgenres” of each wine color. Varietals refers to the actual type of grape that is used to make the wine you’re tasting. Each varietal will have a unique flavor and smell to it and those flavors and smells can change over time. Below I’ve listed out the most well-known wine varietals for each wine color:

Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Malbec, and Syrah.

Whites: Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Moscato.

Rosés: Again, if they are labeled Rosé, they will be a specific varietal, like Malbec or Merlot, but if they are labeled anything else, they are a blend of more than one varietal.

The main point of wine tasting is to experience wine on a deeper, more appreciative level. To start off, take a look at the wine. What color is it? Is it light and nearly crystalline, like Moscato? Or, is it a rich, red ruby color, like Merlot?

Wine makers and connoisseurs can tell an older, aged wine from a newer wine based solely off of color. Now, the way they can tell is really simple. At the bottom of the glass, older wines will have darker coloration at the bottom of the glass. This is due to the wine’s natural aromas because they separate slightly over time. Newer wines are typically more uniform in coloration.

The next sense is smell. To really appreciate all the subtle notes in a wine, gently swirl the wine around in your glass. Then, take a whiff. Common notes you might notice in the aroma of red wines include berries and even purple floral scents, while white wines lean toward citrus and white flower notes.

Now, you’re finally ready to taste it. Sip the wine and let it swish around a little bit. Take a mental note of whether the wine tastes earthy, fruity, sweet, etc. Try and pick out any specific flavors, like apples for Riesling, blackberries for Cabernet, or creamsicle for Orange Moscato.

After you’ve done all the looking, swirling, and tasting, it time to discuss which one you liked most! Talk to your friends about the notes you noticed. Did you and your friends have similar descriptive words? If not, maybe you noticed something they didn’t. By now, you’re a true wine connoisseur.

I hope you enjoyed this and will now deeply appreciate the flavors of wine! One of my most favorite jobs is when I get to write the tasting notes for each of the wines and pick out the flavors and aromas. It is fascinating to me how grapes can taste like everything else in the world!