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How to Describe a Wine

When you're at a wine tasting, it can be hard to find words to describe the elusive aromas and flavors that you're experiencing. Here are some tips on talking about wine that I like to share with my guests when I hold a tasting event here at our winery.

Ellen Flora - Senior Wine Ambassador

When you're at a wine tasting, it can be hard to find words to describe the elusive aromas and flavors that you're experiencing. Here are some tips on talking about wine that I like to share with my guests when I hold a tasting event here at our winery.

Describing appearance and aroma.

The first thing I have my guests describe is how the wine looks in the glass. Simply hold your glass up to the light and say the first words that come to mind.

(I always think it's fun to see if my guests' descriptions will match the scents and flavors that they discover when they start to smell and taste the wine.)

Next comes aroma. Swirling your glass a bit really does help the wine open up, so don't hesitate.

Because many wines have fruit and floral scents, it's common to hear words like apple, pear and peach when people describe a wine's aroma. If you're the party host, and you're already familiar with the wines you're serving, you can help your guests detect fruit aromas by putting cut pieces of apple, peach or pear in wine glasses on the table, so they can pick them up and smell them. It also makes a nice decorative touch. (Swirl still wine — sparkling bubbles will carry the aroma to you, no need to swirl.)

Describing taste: a personal touch.

Finally, it's time to take a sip and describe the flavor of the wine. When I do a tasting event, I encourage my guests to bring something personal and unique to their descriptions. For example, I find that the places people come from really play into the way they react to a wine. For example, if you're from New England, you might detect a flavor that reminds you of maple syrup. Or if you grew up in the South, the aroma might remind you of magnolia trees. If that's the case, then come right out and say it!

Here's another approach that really adds fun to a wine-tasting party. Try to describe the wine as if it were a real person. For example, a bolder wine might be someone charismatic or athletic (maybe your favorite pro tennis player?). A light, fruity sparkling wine might be someone with a bubbly personality (maybe your favorite TV actress?). I like to describe Chandon etoile as a fine dancer, someone with really great movement, elegance, gracefulness, but with great power and strength. I love to open an evening with etoile — it's like inviting someone with a terrific personality to dinner. And that's what the best parties are all about!