Tips for Wine Tasting like a True Wine Snob

I spent this weekend wine tasting in Paso Robles with family to celebrate my Aunt Candise’s birthday. It was swelteringly hot, but the heat is what allows that region to grow some really incredible grapes. We had a blast, complete with some awesome winery visits, a near-death experience (my aunt almost killing my uncle when they nearly ran out of gas), and a spectacular dinner at ONX Estate Vineyard.

Wine tasting is one of my favorite activities. First, trying new wine with people you like is a unique shared experience. Second, the art of wine itself is really fascinating, with lots to learn and enjoy. But let’s be real, the main reason people love wine tasting is it’s fun to criticize. And with wine, if you follow a few general guidelines, you can say pretty much whatever you want and sound like the most knowledgeable wine critic out there. Here are a few tips to ensure you leave the snootiest possible impression on your next wine tasting trip.

Wine Tasting at Halter Ranch

Put together a list of pretentious adjectives.

The key to finding good wine adjectives is using descriptors that also apply to women. Here’s a quick cheat sheet to get you started.

Pinot Noir – The Heartbreaker

  • Delicate
  • Fickle
  • Thin-skinned

Zinfandel – The Socialite

  • Bold
  • Smooth
  • Refined

Petite Syrah – The Temptress

  • Intense
  • Sultry
  • Robust

In addition, here are a few more words to add to your wine vocabulary: complex, lush, crisp, full-bodied, young, approachable, grassy, jammy, well-rounded, peppery, eloquent, precocious, well-aged, finnicky, and mysterious. A note of caution: just because many of these words can be applied to women, doesn’t mean they should be. Tread carefully, gentlemen.

Sensory station at Halter Ranch

When in doubt, smell your wine.

If you can’t think of anything to say about a particular wine and don’t want to drop a pretentious adjective at the risk of using the wrong one and sounding like a dweeb (because that wasn’t a risk before), just swirl your wine around in your glass and smell it. There’s often more leeway in what you can use to describe what you’re smelling than what you’re tasting. Ask if the floral/fruity/earthy fragrance comes from the grapes or the soil. Or better yet, ask if anyone else can detect that subtle hint of graphite you’re getting from a particular wine.

If you’re really stuck on what to say, take a pro tip from my Uncle Mark. Swirl it around, take a sip, look pensive, and say, “Good wine. Needs to breathe a little.”

Dinner in the Vines featuring my lovely sister Helen

Make memories with your fellow wine snobs.

The best part of wine tasting is the shared experience with your fellow critics, so make sure you don’t get so caught up in being a wine snob that you miss out on the best part of wine tasting – the company. Ask everyone to share their favorite/least favorite wines and why. Come up with ridiculous analogies together. Take pictures. Tell stories. Laugh a lot. And don’t forget to drink responsibly, drink lots of water, and always have a designated driver.

What are some of your favorite wine tasting tips and memories??