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Anne McHale Master of Wine, London, UK

  • Anne McHale

How to taste wine like a pro

When I wrote about the bizarre ritual in restaurants where you, the guest, are asked to check the wine for faults, I promised I'd tell you more about how to do this so that you will always wow your fellow diners ;-)

To start you off, here's an oldie but a goodie: a video of me (rather more serious than I usually appear when teaching!) during my time at the venerable Berry Bros. & Rudd. In this short video I show you the proper technique for tasting wine.

So - if I myself were ordering wine in a restaurant, would I carry out all these steps? No - these are the steps to be carried out when you're tasting a wine to assess all its qualities, including its aromas, flavours and what we call 'structural components' such as tannin and acidity - more on those in future updates.

In a restaurant it's often enough to carry out step one - i.e. when the server pours your sample, you give the wine a quick sniff to check for TCA. If you're not sure or if the wine is not particularly aromatic and needs air, you can carry out step two and swirl the glass. Everything you need to know should be available to you on the nose alone, and with practice and with confidence about what cork taint smells like, this is all you will ever need to do. Until you gain that confidence, then you can carry out step three and give the wine a good swirl around the palate (perhaps minimising any slurping sounds as a sign of respect towards other diners!). But before long, you will simply be giving the wine a sniff, confidently stating to the server that you are happy with it, and wowing your guests.

I hope that you'll be practising this, either at home or on your next visit to a restaurant! Next time we'll be discussing that much-ordered bottle from the wine list - the Second Cheapest...