Wine 101: Your guide to fancy drinking

July 14, 2017

Wine 101: Your guide to fancy drinking

Drinking alcohol should be an enjoyable, stress-free activity but weirdly enough, that isn’t always the case. Here in the Philippines, drinking wine is known to be an intimidating task because of the decorum that seems to be required in wine tastings, or any wine-related events. You may have seen wine connoisseurs swirl their glasses and make weird faces during tastings. What do these mean and what do they do for the tasting experience?  Your goal in every tasting is to identify enough flavors to, eventually, have a personal assessment of the wine. To do this, you only need to learn the best way to taste the wine, and what look for while drinking it.


Before sipping,make sure the glass isn’t full. The perfect tasting pour would be 30mL (about a third of the glass), as this is the perfect amount to swirl without spilling, and have enough amounts of wine to taste. Let’s try to stay in control, folks: ten glasses of the tasting pour would amount to half a bottle of wine.

The first thing you’ll notice is the color. Hold your glass against the light, and check the wine’s opacity. For white wines, a clear, water-like opacity can mean that it’s a younger wine from a cool region. A darker white wine could either mean that it’s older, it came from a warm region, or was aged in a barrel (which oxidizes and darkens its color). However, take note that there are specific grape varieties that don’t follow these guidelines because of the winemaker’s style.

For reds, it would be best to hold your glass against a white background to have a better view. The deepness in color and opacity of red wine tells you the age, and the thickness of the grape’s skin. Red wine usually loses color as it ages, so a deep magenta could mean that it’s a young wine, and a brighter, brick red color could mean that it’s an older-aged red. 


Swirling is the best way to activate the aromas and have a good whiff of the aromatic notes in the wine. To avoid spilling, keep the glass placed on the table, hold the stem as if you’re holding a pencil and gently move it in a circular motion until you find a comfortable pace to slowly lift it off the surface. Put your nose close to the rim, breathe in the aroma, and identify scents that you recognize. It might be hard to distinguish the notes at first, so don’t hesitate to take it slow—sniff and swirl for as many times as you wish. Start by distinguishing the fruity, earthy, and wooden scents.

  • Fruit –easiest to detect since our nasal passages are all familiar with the smell of fruits; identify broad categories first, like citrus and berries, then drill down further to specific fruits
  • Earth –consists of any other organic elements, such as soil and herbs
  • Wood – most prevalent in oak-aged wines; wooden flavors can also emit other familiar scents, like vanilla, roasted nuts, and spices


Tasting is the most definitive way of appreciating the wine’s flavors. When you sip, you’ll experience the flavors retro-nasally, and the aromas become more distinct. Make sure to coat the most sensitive areas of your mouth. You can breathe in as you let the wine swish around (similar to gargling) to re-activate the aromas. This lets you gage the wine’s sweetness, body, and acidity.

  • Sweetness/dryness –can be detected by how much sweetness you taste at the tip (or bitterness at the back-end) of your tongue
  • Body –discerned through its weight and thickness; comparable to the weight of milk: if it feels like full cream milk, then it’s a full-bodied wine, and when it’s closer to skim milk, then it can be a lighter-bodied wine
  • Acidity – several acids naturally develop in the wine making process, as they help age the wine, and keep younger wines fresh. The acidity level usually matches its alcohol content but an overly sour, acidic wine may be indicative of a poor vintage.

The best way to master wine is to taste regularly, and since there are so many new ways to enjoy and learn about wine in Manila, now is the best time to buy, taste, and discover. For easy, and hassle-free shopping, you can thank the heavens for this online wine store that delivers curated wine straight to your doorstep (they even offer a subscription service, where they hand-pick wines for you and send 6 of them every month!). You can also join an online wine community so you can stay up to date on wine deals and tasting events around the metro Now that you have enough tips to be able to hold your own during tastings, go forth and drink up, kavino!