How to Taste Like a Wine-show Judge

From Laithwaite's Wine People's Wine Buyer Dan Parrott!

Internationally experienced Chief Wine Buyer for Laithwaite's Wine People, Dan Parrott, offers some helpful tips to help you taste wine like a professional.

Tools of the trade

"Whether you are new to wine tasting or a professional on the competition circuit, the tools of the trade remain the same: a clear, tulip shaped glass (commonly known as an ISO glass), clear lighting and a notepad and pencil (your white coat and clipboard are optional)! While we are on the subject of 'clear', it also helps to have a clear head and palate – if you have a cold, are over-tired or have a foreign taste in your mouth, however much the wine may want to speak to you, not much will get through."

Three simple steps that will help you expertly judge your wine

First, look. Check the colour against a white surface.

For reds, a purple hue around the edges of the glass indicates youth, a tawny-brown (or 'rusty') edge indicates age (and possibly fault) and a deeper colour means you are drinking a more full-bodied style of wine. Lighter reds like Pinot Noir and Barolo are often see through, where Shiraz and Cabernet are far deeper in appearance.

Crisp whites like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio will be pale straw in colour, while older, richer or sweeter wines like Chardonnay and dessert styles will have a far deeper colour such as yellow.

Next, smell. Swirl the wine in your glass, then sniff.

Your first impression will always be the strongest. Write down what you smell. You will encounter a wide range of weird and wonderful scents including seasonal fruits, vegetables, lollies and nuts … all the way through to petrol, leather and tobacco!

Last, taste. Notice the initial taste, what flavours then develop, and whether the tastes are sustained (called length). As well as a range of flavours, tasting detects how smooth or dry a red is, the balance of the fruit and crispness in a white, and how well the wine may age.

Wine talk – the 'tears' or 'legs'

'Legs' give you a hint of a wine's body and/or sweetness. Give the wine a swirl and watch it settle, leaving residue on the sides of the glass. Normally the less pronounced these 'legs', the less substantial the wine on the palate; the more pronounced, the fuller the mouthful.