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How to taste a wine

Learn How to Taste Wine

So, once you have a glass of wine in your hand, what next? Here’s your step-by-step guide to getting the most out of your sip. Learn how to taste wine and get the best from your wine tasting.

  • First, have a sniff of your wine, swirl it around to release the aromas, and take a look at the colour.
  • Take a deep sniff, and see what flavours you pick up on the nose. Breath it all in and see if any familiar comes up for you.
  • Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for: take a sip. To make sure you get the full impact and all the flavours, try swishing it around in your mouth. Move it into all areas of your mouth.

And then, the final question: spit or swallow?

If you’d prefer to pace your alcohol intake, or you’re driving, little buckets are usually available to spit into. It’s pretty widely acceptable (as is chucking the rest of the tasting glass after a small sip). Do whatever suits you best: the most important thing is to have a great time.

The trickiest part could be using the right words or understanding the vocabulary of other tasters.

Wine Tasting Vocabulary

Before we get into a great deal of detail, here is a helpful little cheat sheet. Learn these few words and what they mean, and you’re about halfway to understand wine tasting. It’ll also make wine tasting more enjoyable for you because you’ll understand what the staff are talking about when introducing the wines.

Remember that we at Perold Wine Cellar are there to help you, and we are accustomed to guiding everyone—from rookie to veteran—through the wine tasting experience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! We’re here to help you learn and have a good time.

wine maker testing wine from barrel. Learn how to taste wine

VARIETAL

The word “varietal” simply refers to the type of grape used to make the wine.

TANNINS

“Tannins” are a compound that occurs in wine. They are responsible for the dry taste of red wines. It’s the same kind of taste that you’ll find in strong tea. The word is typically only used to describe the dry mouth-feel of red wine: most white wines don’t have noticeable tannins on the palate.

WOOD

Some wine is matured in oak barrels. In white wines, this is responsible for a richer flavour and will bring out caramel, vanilla, straw, and buttery flavours. It also makes the wine a deeper yellow colour. Not all white wines are matured in wood, but almost all red wines are matured in barrels. The longer the wine is wooded for, the more complex the flavour: you’ll detect spice, smoke, and other rich, deep notes.

TERROIR AND CLIMATE

Wines are affected by the kind of climate the vines grow in. Rainfall and temperature can make a big difference. “Terroir” refers to all the environmental factors that go into the grape, including the soil type, geological factors, climate, elevation, and even what other organisms are growing nearby.

COLOUR

Pay attention to the colour of the wine: it can tell you a lot. In red wines, it is a clear indication of age. Younger reds are bright red or purple, while aged reds take on a brownish hue. In whites, it can indicate whether the wine was matured in wood or not. The wood gives white wine a yellower colour. The rosé wine colour is affected by how long the skins of the red grape are left on before the liquid is separated. A subtle, pale pink might only have had under an hour of skin contact, while a deeper pink indicates a longer skin contact time.

NOSE

The “nose” of a wine refers to the scent you can pick up – florals, spices, wood, and any other elements. Once you refine your nose, it’ll tell you a lot about what you’re drinking before you even take a sip.

There are five main wine routes in or close to Cape Town. Cape Town is unique in that it contains a wine region in the middle of the city: Constantia. Durbanville and Helderberg are also within the city borders, and Franschhoek and Stellenbosch are within 30 minutes to an hour’s drive of the city centre. Your best option is to choose a route that’s convenient for you and select four or five estates that tickle your fancy.

At Perold Wine Cellar we commit to giving you a taste of all the wine routes in South Africa and if you would like to know more about the routes and their wines, visit our shop in Somerset. We are on Google maps as Peroldwinecellar.

Where to Learn How to Wine Taste

If you are lucky enough to be in South Africa, the Western Cape has loads of places where you can go for wine tastings.

Room full of people tasting wine

There are many wine routes in or close to Cape Town. These wine routes include the following:

  • Stellenbosch wine routes
  • Wellington wine routes
  • Constantia wine route
  • Durbanville wine route
  • Franschoek wine valley
  • Paarl wine route
  • Hemel-en-Aarde wine valley
  • Breedekloof wine valley
  • Robertson wine valley
  • Tulbagh wine route
  • Elgin wine valley

Cape Town is unique in that it contains a wine region in the middle of the city: Constantia.

Durbanville and Helderberg are also within the city borders, and Franschhoek and Stellenbosch are within 30 minutes to an hour’s drive of the city centre. Your best option is to choose a route that’s convenient for you and select four or five estates that tickle your fancy. There are so many. This is a great guide from Visit Winelands that you can use if you are planning a trip to South Africa. We’d love to hear about your experience, so always feel free to tag us on social media with your pictures.

We proudly stock wines from the following South African wineries and would love to share them with you.

At Perold Wine Cellar we commit to giving you a taste of all the wine routes in South Africa and if you would like to know more about the routes and their wines, visit our shop in Somerset. We are on Google maps as Peroldwinecellar.

Alternatively, you can join one of our online wine tastings or we can cater to your event needs. We are also doing regular story, wine and music events in collaboration with Andy Copps and Michelle Cheyne. Our next one is in celebration of wine and Christmas on 18 December 2021.

Book Your spot for our next Time to Wine Down event. You can order a hamper from us, join us in person or bring your own and join us online.

Time to Wine Down African Christmas banner

So keep an eye on our events and sign up for our email list to get our news straight to your inbox.

What to Expect when Wine Tasting

Wine tasting can be a great experience for seasoned connoisseurs and total beginners alike. Many wine estates in South Africa offer other activities, like picnics, kids’ playgrounds, amazing restaurants, cellar tours, pairings, and much more.

what to expect wine tasting

Most are located in stunning surroundings, and many contain beautiful examples of the unique Cape Dutch architecture. Depending on where you go, you’ll find gorgeous white-washed manor houses, incredible views, local artwork, and rich history. Even if you’re not a big wine drinker, or have kids in tow, there’s something for everyone on a day exploring the wine regions.

At Perold Wine Cellar we stock from a variety of wine-growing areas so research the wine route you would like to visit and come and talk to us about the wine route and we will offer you the wines from your route.

Wine tasting usually happens in the estate’s tasting room. Here, you’ll find knowledgeable staff to guide you through the process, telling you all you need to know about the wines you’re drinking. There is usually a small tasting fee, although many estates waive it if you purchase wines from them.

Get in touch if you’d like us to host an event or perhaps you’d like us to do a wine tasting for you.