The Art of Tasting Wine: A Beginner’s Guide


Tasting wine is an experience that can be both enjoyable and intimidating for beginners, yet with so many different types of wine, flavours, and techniques, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. But fear not; with a little knowledge and practice, anyone can become a wine tasting pro.

In this beginner’s guide, we’ll cover the basics of tasting wine, including techniques, terminology, and what to wear to a wine tasting. So grab a glass, and let’s dive into the interesting art of tasting wine.

Tasting Wine: 5 Techniques

Group of People Tasting Wine

Before we get into the specifics of tasting wine, it’s important to understand the basic techniques, as these techniques will help you fully experience the wine and pick up on its unique flavours and characteristics.

1. Observe the Colour When Tasting Wine

Begin your wine tasting journey by first observing the appearance of the wine. Gently lift the glass towards the light and pay close attention to its colour and clarity. Red wines span a spectrum of hues, from delicate ruby to rich purple, showcasing a diverse range of shades. 

White wines, on the other hand, encompass a variety of tones, ranging from subtle pale yellow to lustrous golden, offering a wide array of colours to appreciate. The colour of the wine can give you an indication of the wine’s age and grape variety.

2. Swirl the Wine

Next, gently swirl the wine in your glass. This helps to release the wine’s aromas and flavours. Swirling also coats the inside of the glass, allowing you to see the “legs” of the wine. These are the droplets that form on the side of the glass and can indicate the wine’s body and alcohol content.

Man Swirling

3. Smell the Wine When Tasting Wine

After swirling, take a deep sniff of the wine. The aroma can give you a sense of the wine’s complexity and flavours. Try to identify any specific scents, such as fruits, spices, or oak.

4. Sip the Wine When Tasting Wine

Take a small sip of the wine and let it sit on your tongue for a few seconds. This allows the wine to coat your mouth and for you to pick up on its flavours and body. Swish the wine around in your mouth before swallowing or spitting it out into a spittoon.

Woman Sipping on Wine

5. Savour the Aftertaste When Tasting Wine

After swallowing, take note of the wine’s aftertaste or finish. Does it linger on your palate or disappear quickly? This can give you an indication of the wine’s quality and complexity.

Tasting Wine: Terminology

When it comes to tasting wine, there are a few key wine tasting terms that you should know, as these terms can help you better understand and describe the wine you are tasting:


When tasting wine, you may notice a tingling sensation at the back of your throat, which stimulates salivation. This sensation is caused by the presence of acids in the wine, which enhance its taste. The longer your mouth waters, the higher the acidity of the wine.


A balanced wine is one in which the fruit, alcohol, and acidity are in perfect harmony, with no single element overpowering the others.


Wine body refers to the fullness and texture of the wine in the mouth. Full-bodied wines have a rich and robust taste, often with higher alcohol content, while wines with a lighter body feel more delicate on the palate.

Sommelier Pouring


Bold wines are characterised by their intense and pronounced flavours, often dominated by fruity notes, while elegant wines, on the other hand, are more subtle and refined in taste.


The bouquet of a wine refers to its aroma or smell. When tasting wine, you may encounter bouquets that are reminiscent of fruits, spices, flowers, herbs, earth, or other elements.

Man Smelling


Complexity refers to the different layers of flavours and aromas in a wine. A complex wine will have multiple flavours and aromas that evolve and change as you taste it.


Wine notes are the specific flavours and aromas that you can pick up on while tasting the wine. These can range from fruits and spices to more unique notes like leather or tobacco.

Woman Tasting White Wine


The term grape variety refers to the specific type of grape, akin to the scientific species, such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.


The term varietal is applied to wines crafted solely from one grape type or heavily influenced by one type of grape. Some wine varietals include Shiraz, Pinotage, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

For example, a wine that contains 85% Chardonnay is classified as a Chardonnay varietal despite the fact that the other 15% is composed of different elements.

Tasting Wine: Flavours and Complexity

One of the most exciting aspects of tasting wine is discovering the different wine flavours and wine complexity of each wine. Here are a few common flavours and characteristics that you may encounter while tasting wine:

  • Fruits: Wines can have a range of fruit flavours, from citrus and berries to tropical fruits like pineapple and mango.
  • Spices: Some wines may have hints of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or black pepper.
  • Oak: Wines aged in oak barrels may have notes of vanilla, caramel, or toast.
  • Tannins: Tannins are compounds found in grape skins and can give the wine a bitter or astringent taste. They can also add structure and complexity to the wine.
  • Acidity: Acidity is a crucial component of wine and can give it a crisp, refreshing taste.
  • Sweetness: Wines can range from bone-dry to very sweet, depending on the amount of residual sugar left in the wine.
Tasting Wine Varietals

Tasting Wine: Tips for Beginners

Here are a few additional tips to help you get the most out of your wine tasting experience:

  • Start with lighter wines and work your way up to heavier, more complex wines.
  • Take breaks between tastings to cleanse your palate with water or crackers.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for recommendations from the tasting room staff.
  • Take notes on the wines you taste to help you remember your favourites.
  • Don’t feel pressured to finish every wine you taste. It’s okay to spit or pour out wine you don’t enjoy into a dump bucket.

What To Wear When Tasting Wine

Tasting Wine - Group of Friends Cheersing

Have you been wondering what you should wear when tasting wine at a venue or of there are specific wine tasting outfits? While there is no specific dress code for wine tasting, it’s important to wear something that you are comfortable in, that is suitable for the weather, and also for the type of wine farm you are visiting. Some boutique farms might be quite casual, while some upmarket wine farms could require a more formal clothing choice. Here are some wine tasting outfit ideas if you are stuck on what to wear.

Here are a few tips for what to wear to a wine tasting at any wine farm:

  • Avoid strong perfumes or colognes, as they can interfere with your ability to smell and taste the wine.
  • Opt for comfortable shoes, as you may be standing for long periods of time.
  • Dress in layers, as wine tasting rooms can be cool.
  • Avoid wearing white or light-coloured clothing, as spills and stains are common during wine tastings.

Tasting Wine: Events and Tours

If you’re looking to expand your experience of tasting wine, consider attending a wine tasting in Cape Town perhaps consider joining one or two wine tasting tours in Cape Town, many of which offer transport so you can enjoy the day freely. These events often feature a variety of wines from the area and can be a great way to discover new favourites.

Some of the best wine tastings in Cape Town offer tours of their vineyards and production facilities, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the winemaking process. These tours often include tastings and can be a fun and educational experience for wine lovers. Many wineries also offer add-ons to their wine tasting, such as delicious wine and chocolate tasting, which helps to bring out more of the different flavours of the wines. If you would like to find a wine tasting venue or a tour, simply search ‘wine tasting near me’ online.

HER Wine Collective

The HER Wine Collection stands as a pioneering force in South Africa’s wine industry. As the first enterprise completely owned and operated by black women, we take immense pride in every aspect of our journey. From tending to the vineyards to crafting exquisite bottles and overseeing production, marketing, and distribution, it’s all handled with love and dedication by black women. We deeply value the power of exchanging ideas, motivating one another, and fostering stronger connections within South Africa’s beautifully diverse communities.

Her Wine Shiraz being poured

HER Bursary

At the HER Wine Collection, our team of extraordinary women understands the obstacles on the path to professional success. We empathise with the challenges young individuals face in forging their own way in the world, which fuels our passion to lend a hand up. That’s why we have committed to donating 2% of our profits to a bursary fund aimed at nurturing the dreams of ambitious young minds and empowering them to transform their aspirations into reality.

Our remarkable scholarship is exclusively available to applicants from families working on the vineyards that supply grapes for the HER Wine Collection. Chosen recipients will not only receive financial assistance for their education but also benefit from invaluable mentorship, guiding them through the intricacies of tertiary studies and the pursuit of a fulfilling career. 

Her Wine Ladies

Buy HER Wines

Our wines are available to purchase at a Woolworths near you or Woolworths online, as well as other retailers country-wide. Stay in the know about all the latest happenings at the HER Wine Collection by joining us on our Instagram and Facebook pages. For any additional information or inquiries regarding our exquisite wines, don’t hesitate to reach out to us via email at or call us at 021 873 3170. And if you enjoyed our blog on tasting wine, then have a look at our other interesting posts on our HER Blog.