Wine Tasting Skills: Oz Clarke’s How to Taste Wine, Part Two

Tasting skills with Oz Clarke

Discover wine tasting skills from the Three Wine Men experts and make drinking wine an even more rewarding experience, one step at a time. Practise these skills at home or with friends and be raring to go at our wonderful wine tasting events! Find out more about our events at

Over to Oz, for part TWO…

“The old timers say that in a blind tasting one sight of the label is worth a lifetime’s experience.”

Look at the wine

Pour the wine into a wine glass so that it is about a third full. A big tulip-shaped glass that is broad near the base and narrower at the top will help to concentrate the aromas of the wine. Tilt the glass against a white background so you can enjoy the range of colours in the wine from the centre to the rim. But don’t spend too long on this: you’re wasting good drinking time.

Smell the wine

Give the wine a vigorous swirl in the glass to release the locked-in aromas. Stick your nose right into the glass and inhale steadily and gently, as if you were smelling a flower.

These initial split seconds of inhalation will reveal all kinds of familiar and unfamiliar smells. Always interpret them in terms that mean something to you. If the smell reminds you of honey, or chocolate, or apples, or raspberries, then those descriptions are sure to be right for you. Remember, it’s your nose that counts here. It doesn’t matter if someone else interprets the smells differently – that’s their nose – and anyway, it’s all part of the pleasure of wine. It’s only by reacting honestly to the taste and smell of a wine that you can build up a memory bank of flavours against which to judge future wines and to help you recognize wines you have already encountered.

At first you may find that you can’t put a name to smells you do recognize or that there are too many smells to untangle in your mind, or even that the wine smells of nothing much at all. Your nose tires quickly, so give it a break after a few seconds, then go back to the wine. It’s worth jotting down a note of your thoughts before you forget them – a glance at the notes can bring the aromas flooding back weeks later. And if you’re with friends, say what you think and listen to what the others say. Everyone’s view is valid and useful.


Blind tasting

The old timers say that in a blind tasting one sight of the label is worth a lifetime’s experience.

Blind tasting is a game where you have to guess what the wine is – grape variety, vintage, region, village, field, name of producer’s dog… it’s very difficult. A glimpse of the label takes all the hard work out of it. But it also influences what you think the wine will taste like. What if you saw the wrong bottle? Much better to keep all labels covered up, or better, all bottles hidden in paper bags – then you can’t have any preconceptions and all thewines will be judged on their own merits.

Extracted from Oz Clarke’s Let Me Tell You About Wine, published by Pavilion Books. Image credit to Pavilion Books, RRP £14.99, available to order from all good bookshops and online retailers including Amazon here

We hope you enjoy practising these wine tasting skills!  The next post focusses on your sublime sense of taste…

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