It’s understandable to be intimidated when it comes to learning wine: it is part of an ever-changing industry with deep-rooted history and cultural ties across the globe. But at the end of the day, wine is also the beverage that brings us together, helps us make memories, and makes any meal just a little more enjoyable. So push aside any hesitations you may have, dodge the snobs, and dive into the world of wine.

Simple Tips for Learning Wine

It goes without saying that there is one key to drinking wine: enjoying it. Like fashion, food, and one’s choice of reading material, wine is personal. Choose wines that fit your taste, and remember that your tastes can change. Even when you discover styles you love, be open to trying new wines.

Tip #1: Check out the color

Noting a wine’s color will help you understand a wine more. For a while, they might all look the same burgundy color, but you will quickly notice that different wine varietals, wine styles, and aged wines will all determine a wine’s color.

Is it deep red? Does it have more of a purple tinge? Or perhaps more of a rust color? If you’re drinking a white, it is a clear white? Does it have a slightly green hue? Or perhaps a more honeyed color . . . or straw yellow? Asking yourself these questions will help you begin to “see” the wine in a different light. (Speaking of light: hold your wine up to the light to check for clarity, and hold it against a white paper or tablecloth to see the color more clearly.)

If you need some assistance, try to locate your wine’s color on this chart by Bordeaux Undiscovered, which organizes wine colors into categories.

Tip #2: Swirl and smell

Just so you can say something like, “Check out those legs.” Kidding. (Actually, half kidding: check out the article “Nice Legs” for more information about legs in wine.) Then smell the wine. Smell it deeply. What does it smell like? Ask yourself if you can identify any of the following aromas which are commonly found in wines:

  • Flowers
  • Fruits
  • Tree fruits
  • Tropical fruits
  • Red fruits
  • Black fruits
  • Dried fruits
  • Spices
  • Vegetables
  • Earth

Still need some help? Check out our articles on wine aromas:

Tip #3: Taste

Sip and savor. What do you taste? Try placing the flavors you taste by using these categories for red wine:

  • Fruity (for example, strawberry, cherry, plum, raspberry, pineapple, apple, pear, citrus)
  • Floral (violet, jasmine, lavender, rose petal, orange blossom)
  • Herbal (thyme, mint, pine, anise, cinnamon, clove)
  • Vegetal (red pepper, tomato leaf, cabbage,
  • Oak flavors (vanilla, toast, cedar)
  • “Other” (tar, chocolate, tobacco, leather)
Tips for Tasting Wine
Tips for Tasting Wine

How else could you describe the wine? Does it fit any of these descriptors?

  • Silky
  • Chalky
  • Creamy
  • Acidic
  • Delicate
  • Elegant
  • Bold
  • Fruit-forward
  • Intense
  • Complex
  • Balanced

Tip #4: Pair wine (or not)

Are you drinking this wine with food? Check out our Guide to Food and Wine Pairing to learn how to pair flavors and dishes.

Are you drinking this wine alone? Find out whether or not you should aerate or decant it in our Aerating vs. Decanting article.