Looking at a Wine

Looking at the wine can give you some information about what you are about to taste.

The wine glass should be clear and plain with no decoration or coloured stems.  To look at the wine place the glass on a white surface (a white tablecloth or white paper will do) and look down into the wine.  Look to see how clearly you can see the stem.  Look at the colour and clarity of the wine.

Then tilt the glass at a 45° angle and have a look.

There are a few things you should take note of when looking at a wine.


Is the wine dull or is it brilliant?  Brightness is related to acidity.  Wines with relatively high acidity will be very bright, while those lacking in acidity will look more dull in the glass, and may consequently taste a bit dull.


Is the wine clear or is it cloudy or hazy?  Ideally, the wine should be clear.  A clear wine indicates that it is a healthy wine.  If the wine does have a muddy appearance, check to make sure that it is not just stirred up sediment before dismissing the wine as bad.  Older wines may throw a sediment and, if not decanted properly, it may end up in the glass.  Don’t worry, sediment is not harmful.  As a result of the recent trend away from the harsh treatment of heavily filtering wine, some relatively young wines may also show some sediment.  Again, these wines are perfectly healthy.  If you suspect a wine may have sediment then decant it into another vessel, or just don’t pour the end of the bottle (leave about an inch at the bottom).


Is the wine a ruby red or is it a purple-red?   The colour of the wine can give us clues as to the grape variety, origin, age, and even fermentation and maturation methods.  Some red grape varieties naturally have lighter colours than others.  For example, Pinot Noir will be a much lighter and paler red colour than say a Cabernet Sauvignon.  Wines from cooler climates will also tend to have a lighter colour when compared to wines from warmer climates.  The colour of a wine will change with age too.  White wines get darker as they age, eventually ending up a brown colour.  Red wines get lighter as they age, their colour precipitating out as sediment.  A youthful red wine may start out life as a purply-red colour.  It then changes to ruby, to garnet, to brick, and finally to tawny which usually indicates it’s past its best.

Carbon Dioxide:

Are there tiny bubbles in the wine?  Sparkling wine should have bubbles, but some still wines may also have some.  Young white wines are more likely to have a slight spritz than are reds.


Does the wine have “tears” or “legs”?  If you swirl the wine in your glass and then streams of wine glide slowly down the side of the glass, it is likely to be quite high in alcohol and/or it could be a sweet wine.

Go back to How to Taste Wine – Introduction

Go to Smelling the Wine

Go to Tasting the Wine

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