Tasting Wine – Step # 2 – Smell Your Wine

Smelling wine is about exploring and preparing
Smelling wine is about exploring & preparing


Tasting a wine is all about the experience. Today we are going to talk about step #2 to tasting a wine. SMELL! Can you believe that there are actually 4 parts to smelling a wine?

I know right?! Why do people have to complicate something so easy.

But trust me, learning how to properly smell a wine will double or even triple the experience you are getting when you are enjoying a new wine.

Our noses are capable of differentiating millions of different scents. You will truly discover this as you learn to isolate and identify unique smells in your wine.


Why does getting a good scent matter?

Getting a good whiff and breath of the wine will kick up the experience 10 times! Try eating something like a strawberry with your nose plugged. It completely mutes the flavor! But once you open your nose you will notice a lot more complexity and depth to the strawberry! The same happens with wine.


So how do we smell the wine?

It’s pretty simple, but there are a couple steps that make smelling the wine more effective.

Step 1 – Swirl the glass. Some experts say that you need to swirl the wine for at least 10 seconds. Personally I feel that it varies based on of it’s a red or white. For red wines, the longer the wine is exposed to the air, the more alcohol that is let off and the more the tannin structure starts to mellow. So more air is beneficial, hence also why red wine glasses have a large opening. For a white wine, I prefer to only swirl for a couple seconds. If you notice, white wine glasses tend to have a smaller opening. This allows more of the wine vapors to stay in the glass.


Step 2 – Stick your nose in

Different glasses will put your nose either closer or further away from the wine. For red wines, it’s good to get a little closer to the wine level. For white wines, you want to be a little further away.

The distance your nose is from the glass has a huge impact on how you perceive the wine. That takes us back to whether or not you are using the correct wine glass for the wine that you have. Your glassware can have a big impact! If you don’t have a good variety of glasses, I like this set because it you can try a couple different sizes and shapes!

Even the type of nose you have can make a difference! Some noses don’t allow you to get as close to the wine and some get you even closer!


Step 3 – Now smell!

The technique you use for smelling can vary. Some experts like to take a long, deep inhalation through the nostril. This is my personal method. Some like to take a couple short sniffs. This is completely up to you. I suggest that you try both to see which you prefer!


Step 4 – Try to identify 3-5 different scents

Take a go at it and think about what you smell. Try to get 3-5 distinct smells. Explore it! Does it smell sweet? Does it smell sour? Wine can be fruity, earthy, floral, rocky to even smelling like old leather! Wines are drastically varied. About 1% of wines have a fault, which means you can even smell something like bandaids or wet dog!

It doesn’t matter if you are right or wrong (unless you evaluate wines professionally, then you probably need to right). Just get your nose in and start smelling!

Truly experiencing your wine and getting more into the process will give you a better experience when you are consuming wine. Personally, I found that taking the time to truly experience the wine has helped me have a better relationship with wine. In the past, I used wine as a coping mechanism, which should never be the case! Slowing down and experiencing the wine, now makes it all about the experience and not just how it made me “relax” or “forget”.


Now you are prepared and ready for step 3 to tasting a wine! I will be providing detailed info on a tasting a wine in the coming week, so stay tuned!


Are you a big nose smeller? Are you new to smelling?! Tell me what you like or don’t like when smelling a wine!


And as always, you can always reach me at Jennifer@JenniferSleider.com







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  • Brian

    Oh wow, that’s really interesting! I didn’t know there pretty much is a process to get the best smell from wine. I have seen people swirl a glass of wine before, but I didn’t know that it was to help bring out the best possible smell. That’s good to know that longer exposure to air brings out more alcohol. I’m very excited to try this! Does this work with all wines or are some just better suited for this than others? Interesting to think some can smell like old leather!

    • admin

      This works for all wines! I will say that I prefer to swirl it a couple seconds longer for red wine. The more oxygen the more the red can mellow out and it brings more vapor to the surface. Enjoy your next glass of wine! 

  • Benny

    Hello, I would really like to commend your time put into writing this article about tasting wine. One major sense of the body is the sense of smell and our nose is important when we want to smell wine. The steps that you outlined here are absolutely correct and you simplified it. This is very well researched and I appreciate it. 

  • Michel

    Thank you for the most interesting read. I must admit I don’t particularly enjoy the smell of wine, especially red wine, but I do enjoy a glass or two every now and then.

    I always wondered why people swirl the wine before smelling it, and now you have educated me. I will try smelling my wine next time before I drink it, and as you say, I might just enjoy the taste a whole lot more, as the nose has a lot to do with how things taste.

    I have also now learned why red wine glasses are so much wider than white wine glasses. I suppose I had better invest in some red wine glasses as I think at the moment I just have white ones.

    • admin

      I hope that your next glass of wine is a different experience! Also, I just added a link for a couple different styles of stemware so that you can get the best glass for your wine! Thanks for stopping by! 

  • Patrick

    Nice post. Reading your post actually made me laugh when you talked about stick your nose in. I remember I went out on a date and a wine was brought occasionally I smell wine and all but funny enough when I did it on this particular day I sniffed the wine trough my nose and it chocked me. Lol. I think I need to take lessons from you. Nice post really engaging. 

    • admin

      Sometimes if it doesn’t have enough time to breath before you swirl and inhale, you can get choked up by the alcohol vapors! Great point! 

  • Cathy

    Interesting, I didn’t know about the different glasses for red and white. Not long ago, I was at a reunion dinner and had the chance of tasting a very elegant red wine. In my mind, it actually smells like old antique leather. I dare not say it in front of anyone in case it sounded insulting, but hey, you just made it official. At least I know the experience was legit 🙂

    • admin

      Aged wine actually can smell that wine! You were spot on! Not all wines are meant to be aged though. Just hopefully you enjoyed the taste! 

  • CJ Greene

    I love the character and sass in your writing. It makes me feel like I’m listening to a friend teaching me how to smell wine.

    I knew there was probably an involved process in wine (I used to have to do coffee tastings and it’s similarly involved) but I had no idea that the smell itself could involved things like bandaids or wet dog?! That would definitely put me off that wine for life. Perhaps I should not smell my wines before drinking them…

    I also didn’t know that white and red wines had different glasses. It’s interesting to me that we can create such a complex process out of enjoying a drink. I like that people can be passionate about nearly anything.

    • admin

      If a wine smells like band-aids or wet dog, that usually means that there was a problem in the fermenting process of the wine. Some people love it, but I personally am not a fan either! 

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