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Taste Wine Like a Pro at the New York Wine and Food Festival

Taste Wine Like a Pro at the New York Wine and Food Festival

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On Oct. 19, a group of roughly 100 people gathered in a narrow waiting area outside the Standard Highline Ballroom, waiting to partake in the New York Wine and Food Festival event "Taste Wine Like a Pro," sponsored by Wine Spectator.

Anticipation built as serving staff, chilled bottles in hand, darted in and around the tasting area. Though it was a casual crowd about to partake in the seminar, there was an undeniable nervousness in the air because the reality is, the world of wine is intimidating.

Yet when the ballroom doors opened, there was an almost simultaneous audible exhale. The rows of tables, each set with eight glasses of wine (four white, four red), faced floor-to-ceiling windows and looked a lot less intimidating when Gloria Maroti Frazee, the wine educator, gave the group a gracious, warm smile.

"Who here has taken a wine class?" she asks. Not one hand is raised.

"Who here has never taken a wine class?"

Hands shoot up around the room, and Frazee is delighted, "I love groups like you."

With Frazee's help, navigating the world of wine is a breeze. We scooped up 10 of her tips on how to Taste Wine Like a Pro, just in case you couldn't make it to the event:

1) When at a wine tasting, spit:
The easiest way to tell a "newbie" from an "expert" is whether or not the person utilizes the spit bucket. It is a wine tasting, so save the drinking for after you find your favorite at the tasting.

2) Use the same criteria to judge each wine:

  • See (color, color intensity, clarity, legs)
  • Sniff (note the aromas and the aroma intensity)
  • Sip (slosh around in your mouth and notice acidity, tannin, body, and the flavor intensity)
  • Summarize (note the aftertaste, finish, balance, and your preference)

3) Understand "legs":
Legs are the bubbles in certain wines that result from the amount of alcohol or sugar present. The thicker and more slow-moving the legs are, the higher the alcohol content. It is important to note that this does not indicate quality, but merely helps the taster understand and compare the potency of drinks fairly.

4) Swirl the wine around (unless it has legs):
This is done to increase the surface area as the alcohol evaporates, and carries the aromas into the air. Beginners should not be afraid to use "training wheels" and swirl the glass around on the table.

5) Be aware of "nasal fatigue":
Smell the wine, and then step back and allow your nose to rest before smelling it again.

6) Slosh the wine around in your mouth:

Similar to how you would gargle with mouthwash, this increases the surface area of the wine, and allows it to hit of the areas on your tongue and the back of your throat.

7) Pay attention to the "mouthfeel":
This is often overlooked in most wine tasting notes, but it is important in understanding the wine you are drinking. Does it feel refreshing? Does it dry out your mucus membranes, leaving your mouth feeling furry?

8) The glass the wine is in has a large impact on its taste:
A wine glass is designed so that the aromas are concentrated, The same wine in a plastic cup will taste quite different then that wine in an appropriate glass.

9) There is no right or wrong pairing for wine and food:
Pairings are simply about showing the wine off at its best. Delicate wines pair well with delicate food, richer wines pair well with richer food.

10) Anything goes:
Understand that everyone is born with a different chemical makeup that results in differing preferences and abilities in smelling and tasting. One way you can work to improve this is to go into your spice cabinet or your local farmers market and smell everything.

Madeleine Andrews works in public relations as an Account Coordinator at Deussen Global Communications.

How to taste wine like a pro, even in the pub

he terrible human and economic cost of the pandemic cannot be ignored. It has forced many people to test the limits of their creativity and endurance. And maybe, for a lucky unburdened few, all that time at home has provided an opportunity to explore new interests.

It may have been cooking or knitting. Sales of guitars shot upwards in 2020 as people found relief in playing music. Or maybe you discovered that you love wine, and you have become curious enough to want to learn more about it.

Many great books can help to broaden your knowledge, yet with wine, the best way to begin the journey is by drinking. Whether you prefer to do that systematically or randomly is up to you. But whichever you decide, you’ll want just a few tools to enhance the experience.

Let me explain that. You really don’t need anything to enjoy wine short of a corkscrew (you don’t even need that if the bottle has a screw cap) and a glass (no, do not drink wine out of the bottle unless you’ve just won the Masters). But while those are the bare essentials, a few practical items will heighten your enjoyment.


This starter kit is simple. You need wine glasses, a corkscrew, a decanter and, of course, some wine. Later, you can add to your equipment. (Fair warning: It has the potential to become a money pit.) But initially, if you choose wisely, the investment will be small. The potential for pleasure, though, is great.

Here is what you need to get started.

Judging appearance

The first step is to look at the wine against a white backdrop, like a blank piece of paper. This ensures that wines are not distorted by external colors.

In addition to the color, there are various levels of intensity to gauge. White wines gain color as they age, ranging from lemon and gold to dark caramel. By contrast, reds lose color and intensity with age, as they progress from purple to ruby to deep tawny. So while a typical aged Barolo might be described as pale or medium garnet (a hue between ruby and tawny), a young Australian Shiraz may lean toward deep purple or ruby.

Video: How to Taste Wine Like a Pro

Quinta da Foz 2017 Grande Reserva Red (Douro)

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Taste Wine Like a Pro – Online!

Our isolation tastings have been great fun but let’s move it up a notch. Join us in Berlin and New York and around the world as we learn how to taste wine like a pro.

Grab your favourite bottle of white. Decant a delicious red. And dig around at the back of the cabinet for a ¼ bottle of brandy (or rum, whisky or whatever). Because we are going to learn a real life skill: how to sample, savour and summarise in a way that makes sense, helps you to catalogue your experiences – and impresses your peers.

I will supply the video clips, print-outs and other information to transform you from to dilettante to connoisseur.

By the end of the evening you will be considerably more knowledgeable regarding how to handle wine and how to taste wine like a pro!

With years of experience living in viticultural regions, importing and exporting wine, and running bars and wine shops, Sean has a lifetime of information, opinion and stories to share.

You can read some of his unique articles on subjects like how to find great wines for cheaper prices and woman in the wine industry.

Sean runs occasional activities which are beloved by the many regular participants. They focus on wine, beer and Cognac tastings, held around a theme such as country of origin, food pairing or finding more esoteric links with wine for example mythology, art or veganism.

The Food & Wine Hard Cider Taste Test&mdashHere Are Our 7 Top Picks

How do we like them apples? In hard cider, please. From small-production releases to larger-scale craft bottlings, America&rsquos cider revival continues to sparkle. These seven are worth the search.

Made with eight types of apple, the unfiltered Easy Apple Less Sweet is also low in alcohol (4.2%), which makes it a great introduction to the world of cider.

The Texas Honey, which is available in cans, blends bittersweet and dessert apples with local honey for just a hint of sweetness. It makes a killer base for whiskey cocktails.

This New Hampshire producer was a pioneer in bringing back true cider-apple varieties. We love the Extra Dry, which bears a subtle resemblance to Champagne, and the gently sweet Semi-Dry, which can take you from hors d’oeuvres all the way through dessert on Thanksgiving.

Made in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, the deliciously tart First Fruit bottling is almost wine-like in its complexity. Proprietor Diane Flynt makes it with early season heirloom apples, which add a vivid tanginess.

This Vermont cidery excels at balancing complexity with drinkability, and now that some of its ciders are available in cans, they’re even more approachable𠅊nd less expensive than the larger-format bottles. Our top picks: the Semi-Dry, whose bright acidity keeps it crisp and not too sweet, and the lightly sparkling, citrusy Arlo (pictured).

The well-known Belgian beer company makes this light, easy-to-drink cider in upstate New York. Stylistically, it walks a successful line between sweet, mass-market bottles and typically more austere craft versions.

Organic heirloom apples sourced from across Oregon go into this cidery’s single-varietal bottles and blends. One standout: the tangy, floral, lightly sweet Bloom. It pairs perfectly with an Oregon cheese, such as Face Rock Creamery’s buttery Clothbound Cheddar.

How to Talk Wine Like a Master Sommelier

Shayn Bjornholm, examination director for the Court of Master Sommeliers, recounts his blind-tasting triumphs and tells how anyone can sound like a wine expert.

Shayn Bjornholm, examination director for the Court of Master Sommeliers, recounts his blind-tasting triumphs and tells how anyone can sound like a wine expert.

You test would-be Master Sommeliers on their wine knowledge. What tips would you give everyday wine drinkers who want to learn more about wine?
First, have faith in your own taste. Look, the minute you bite into a burger, you know if you like it or not. Doesn’t matter if Guy Fieri made it or Daniel Boulud. Wine’s the same.

What regions should people concentrate on first?
Start with the classic regions—they’ve figured out their identities over hundreds and hundreds of years. So learn about Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Napa, and the Mosel in Germany. That gives you parameters so you can say, “OK, this is the standard. If I taste the rest of the world, I have these as a yardstick.”

What will tasting Bordeaux do if you’re just learning about wine?
Bordeaux from the Mຝoc gives you the epitome of Old World Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a leaner, more elegant, more restrained style, versus, say, big, ripe Napa Valley Cabernets. You learn the European take on one of the world’s most popular wine grape varieties—which is a pretty big chunk of the history of wine in the world, too.

For Burgundy, what would you recommend as a great introduction?
The wines of Volnay, in the Côte de Beaune. They show people the elegant side of Pinot, but they also have the underlying structure and power people don’t really realize Pinot Noir can have.

What about the five most important grapes to start with?
Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo, the Cabernet family (starting with Cabernet Sauvignon) and Chardonnay. Then throw in Riesling, because of its pure deliciousness, and one wacky grape: could be Trousseau, Grüner Veltliner, Grenache—there are lots of options.

What don’t most people know about Cabernet?
The fact that it should be a tad green! A little bit of green pepper. People assume vegetal flavors and wine don’t really go together they think, “Oh, fruit, that’s it.” But fruit alone doesn’t taste like Cabernet to me. The wine should have a little greenness, too, to balance the oak and the fruit. That’s the secret of great Cabernet.

You mentioned including a “wacky” grape—which is your pick?
Grüner Veltliner, only because it perplexes me! It can be powerful and rich, austere and stony, you name it. It’s one of those varieties that I don’t always identify when I’m tasting wines blind.

𠇋lind tasting” is tasting wines without knowing what they are and trying to identify them down to the vintage, region and even producer. Is it just a wine-geek parlor trick?
If you want to show off your great wine-tasting abilities and act like you’re cool because of it, I’ve got a Dungeons & Dragons set for you, too. But for regular wine drinkers, blind tasting just to determine what you think of a wine, without any preconceptions, is one of the most fun things you can do. The point isn’t to be able to say, “That’s clearly a 1971 Château whatever.”

What’s your greatest blind-tasting triumph?
In 2003, in a class, I blind-tasted a 1998 Trimbach Cuvພ Frຝéric Emile Riesling and just knew it. Region, producer, year, that it was grand cru, everything. The Master Sommelier there told me, “If a person could get a perfect score on a wine, you just did.” I’m still talking about it. You don’t forget your first love, and you don’t forget the first blind wine you nailed either.

What’s the best way to sound like a wine expert, even if you aren’t?
I always say, if you don’t know anything about wine, pick up a glass, swirl it, say, “Yes,” sort of thoughtfully, swirl it again and say, “Hmm—no,” then swirl it again and say, “Well, maybe.” Then put the glass down and walk away.

How did you get started in wine?
My career is totally schizophrenic. I have an architecture degree from the University of Virginia, but I wanted to be an actor. So in New York, in �, �, �, that’s what I did. But what do you do as an actor in New York? You wait tables. Then, after I quit acting—I burned out on the lifestyle, basically—I moved back to Seattle and took a sommelier course. The universe must have had a plan for me, because Canlis hired me as a sommelier—I guess for my charm and personality, because I didn’t know a thing about wine!

Shayn Bjornholm&aposs 7 Favorite Bottles
Here, the perfect introductory course for anyone who is interested in wine.

2013 Jamek Ried Achleiten Grüner Veltliner Federspiel ($33)
“Grüner perplexes me, but I love it. This single-vineyard wine from Austria’s Wachau region shows Grüner’s white pepper character, and it also has the rich texture the wine is known for.”

2012 Louis Michel & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Forêts ($38)
“This is a superclean, crystalline Chardonnay—white Burgundies, Chablis included, are Chardonnay𠅋ut it’s not so austere that it&aposs going to rip your teeth off. And $38 for a premier cru? Wow."

2012 Franciscan Estate Magnificat ($55)
𠇏or Cabernet-based Napa wines, you’re looking for riper black fruit, fewer green notes, and riper, softer tannins. The 2012 vintage is great, and this balanced red illustrates that Napa style perfectly.”

2012 Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay ($55)
“The other side of the Chardonnay range would be a richer-style version, like this one from Western Australia. It’s also a lesson in winemaking. Oak-barrel aging gives vanilla and toast nine months of aging on lees (the spent yeasts from fermentation) adds textural richness and weight.”

2011 Château Gruaud Larose ($75)
“With Bordeaux, price really does play a huge role in terms of quality, so you have to spend a little. Gruaud’s wine is a little more fruit-forward than it once was, but in the 2011 vintage it still has all those graphite and green pepper notes that exemplify the region.”

2010 Domaine Marquis D&aposAngerville Volnay Villages ($75)
“One of the greatest producers in the town of Volnay in Burgundy. This village wine perfectly expresses the lifted, floral, bright side of Pinot Noir.”

NV Delamotte Blanc De Blancs Champagne ($78)
“How can you learn about wine without tasting at least one Champagne? This is a beautiful entry-level bottling in a really clean and crisp style.”


Our sense of smell is critical in properly analyzing a glass of wine. To get a good impression of your wine's aroma, swirl your glass for a solid 10 to 12 seconds (this helps vaporize some of the wine's alcohol and release more of its natural aromas) and then take a quick whiff to gain a first impression.

Now stick your nose down into the glass and take a deep inhale through your nose. What are your second impressions? Do you smell oak, berry, flowers, vanilla or citrus? A wine's aroma is an excellent indicator of its quality and unique characteristics. Swirl the wine and let the aromas mix and mingle, and sniff again.

How to Taste Wine Like a Pro at a Winery or Restaurant

On CTV’s The Social yesterday, we chatted about how to get the most from your winery visit, including what to bring, what to ask and how to spit your wine.

However, when you’re at home, please don’t spit the two lovely wines that I selected for this show: Rosehall Run Pinot Noir and Viewpointe Auxerrois )

I absolutely love it when there’s a strong reaction to any segment we do on The Social: it means we’re engaged and passionate about wine!

When I mention that there shouldn’t be sediment floating around in your glass, I’m referring to wines that we decant for that reason.

I’m a huge fan of unfiltered and unfined wines that we don’t decant, and often these styles receive my highest scores in my reviews and are the focus of my writing in my books.

These are the wines with all the stuffing and character still in them. Yes please!

How to Taste Wine Like a Sommelier

As a college student, finding a tasty bottle of inexpensive wine is a common problem. Is the $20 bottle worth it? This label looks cool, that probably means it tastes good, right?

The options in the wine aisle of the grocery store can be overwhelming and often yield mixed results. However, with some quick knowledge, you can move away from that bottom shelf two-buck Chuck and discover what your palate has been missing out on all these years.

Having worked at a local winery, I’ve learned a lot about how to enjoy wine. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “I just don’t like dry wine” or “I have no idea what I’m even looking for.” While those sweet wines are a tasty treat (and great for cocktail mixers that up the ABV), there’s so much more out there to try. Let’s start with the basics of tasting.

The “5 S’s” are used by professional wine tasters all over the world, and they are a great place to start. To begin, pour yourself about an inch of wine (you can pour a full glass once you know you like it). Now let your senses lead the way.

1. See

What does the wine look like? Is it red? White? Is it clear, or does it have a yellow tint to it? Is it a true red, or does it have hints of maroon or purple? None of these things necessarily correlate to taste, but color can serve as an introduction to what you’re about to experience.

2. Swirl

Now it’s time to get your wine snob on. As annoying as it may look, the swirl is key to opening up the aromas and flavors of your wine. Start by keeping your wine glass on the table with your hand at the base. To make sure you don’t spill, it’s important that you do not fill the glass up all the way. Make slow wide circles with the glass and let the rich smell of wine fill your kitchen.

3. Smell

Photo courtesy of

Once you’ve swirled, your wine is ready to be smelled. Before taking in the aroma, get your nose as deep into the wine glass as possible (wine tasting is not for those worried about looking stupid). Then, take in a slow, deep breath and really think about what you’re experiencing.

Is your red wine spicy, like black pepper, or is it more fruity? (Common red wine fruit descriptors are usually cherry, date, or plum.) White wines more commonly have lighter fruit notes. Does it smell tropical, like pineapple or mango? Or is it grapey, with hints of pear and apple? A few white wines, such as chardonnay, have a buttery characteristic that smells like popcorn.

If it’s neither of these, try describing it as herbaceous wines like sauvignon blanc can give off lemongrass or rosemary characteristics. Feel free to give it a second swirl and try again if you’re having trouble describing what you smell.

4. Sip

After all this anticipation, the wine can finally reach your lips, but resist the urge to gulp it down. Let this part happen as slowly as possible. Only take in enough wine to coat your tongue and let it sit there. You don’t need to go full-on sommelier and rinse it around like mouthwash (that’s a little too Ke$ha for our purposes). Just let the wine fill your palate, touching every taste bud on your tongue.

Just like you did with the smell, think about what you’re experiencing. You’ll probably notice that what you’re tasting is often very similar to what you smelled (hence the importance of the third S), but sometimes the smell can be deceiving. What smelled fruity and sweet earlier could present itself with herbaceous qualities on the tongue. Don’t be afraid to contradict yourself wine is full of contradictions.

It’s important with wine tasting to let your own palate be your guide. In your life, you’ve had at least 21 years of experience with taste (no one tastes wine underage, right?). Does this wine remind of of any other flavors you’re familiar with? Can you picture biting into a fresh, juicy, bittersweet summer cherry? Can you recall the raisiny sweetness of a medjool date?

If you have trouble coming up with descriptors, take some time to reintroduce yourself to some flavors you’ve forgotten. Pick up some plums at the store next time you go and think about how they compare to your wine.

5. Savor

This last “S” is probably my favorite, but unfortunately most people forget about it. Remember, the flavor doesn’t end once you’ve swallowed. Some of my favorite wines are just waiting to reveal their greatest secrets in the aftertaste. A spicy red wine leaves your mouth warm, with woody campfire flavors. A buttery chardonnay wants to remind you of a delicious, salty bucket of movie popcorn. Some wines are short and refreshing, ending their lives swiftly with the first taste. Whatever you may experience, don’t let it end after your first sip.

To summarize how wine should be tasted, I believe Hemingway put it best when he said: “Wine… offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.” Wine has so much to offer, and you’ll get what you put into it. Don’t be swayed by what some wine blog told you to buy, or whether you should or shouldn’t like a specific wine (studies prove that many wine experts can’t tell a Bordeaux from a Barefoot). If you like it, who cares what anyone else says about it?

Now, with these tools in your pocket, get out there and try some new wines. The next one you pick up could be your new favorite.


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