Swirl and Sip

A beginner’s guide to wine tasting.

Mona de Crinis Current Digital, Restaurants


With a lineup of more than 50 wineries — from industry giants Clos du Bois, Grgich Hills Estate, Kim Crawford, and Turnbull Wine Cellars to boutique enterprises with alluring names like Murder Ridge Winery and Badger Mountain Vineyard — Palm Desert Food & Wine provides the perfect opportunity to pinpoint the blends and varietals that best suit your palate.

Don’t be intimidated by the hyped gentility of wine tasting. Even if your vino usually comes out of box, these tips and techniques can make you look like a seasoned sommelier while helping you fully experience the bounty of libations offered at this year’s sip fest.


See: Color can be impacted by age, varietal, and barrel process. Carefully observe its color and clarity.

Swirl: Gently swirl the glass by the stem. This brings oxygen into the wine to open up the aromas. To avoid spilling, keep the bottom of the glass on the table.

Sniff: Hold the glass a few inches from your face, then lower your nose slightly into the glass. Subtle aromas may be difficult to identify, but sommeliers will compare the scents to everything from a freshly opened can of tennis balls to toasted bread to black licorice.

Sip: Take a sip and let it linger. A swish will allow all of your taste buds to be exposed to the flavors.


Sampling wines in a particular order can give your palate the best chance to savor the wines’ true flavors. A peppery zinfandel and a delicately oaked chardonnay tasted in quick succession, for example, might mean you lose some of the subtleties of the chardonnay, leaving you unable to fully appreciate it.


Refrain from wearing perfume, cologne, aftershave, lotions, or anything that’s strongly scented — even if it’s fabulous — before engaging in wine tastings. These fragrant products can hamper your ability to pick up the wine’s aroma and thereby affect your sense of taste as well as the experience of your fellow sippers.


Acidity: The tartness or crispness of a wine that causes you to salivate. Wines with no acidity are referred to as flat or flabby.

Balanced: When all components of a wine — alcohol, acidity, sugars, and tannins — are working in harmony.

Body: The impression of weight on your palate. Light, medium, and full are common body qualifiers, and a full-bodied wine will be high in alcohol and flavors.

Breathe: The process of introducing air to let a wine open up.
Corked: A spoiled wine that has been contaminated with cork taint. Corked wines smell and taste damp, soggy, wet, or like rotten cardboard.

Mouthfeel: How the wine feels on your palate. Silky, smooth, rough, and chewy are common descriptions.

Nose: The aromas and bouquets of a wine.

Reserve: In countries like Spain and Italy, a wine must meet specific aging requirements to attain the distinction. However, American standards are looser, and here, the term more generally indicates a wine of higher quality.

Tannins: Extracted from grape seeds and skins, tannins taste astringent or chalky and add body and structure to wine.

Palm Desert Food & Wine, March 22-24. For tickets and information, visit