Become the Ultimate Wine Connoisseur—In 4 Easy Steps

Step 4: Sipping

When you take your first sip, what you taste is a combination of the actual flavors of the wine, as well as the scent because taste is heavily influenced by smell.

“The first question to ask yourself: Do you like it? Or do you not like it?” says Sbrocco. Then try to identify the different flavors you've smelled, along with characteristics such as sweetness, tanginess and alcohol content.

How to Put Those "4 S's" to Good Use

The information derived from the process of seeing, swirling, smelling and sipping is most helpful if it’s documented. By recording your thoughts on the wine you’ve sampled, you’ll start to identify patterns in wines you’ve enjoyed--and ones that have missed the mark.

Sbrocco herself takes photos of wines she’s tried on her smartphone, and then she sends herself an email with additional notes. You can try an app like Hello Vino, which lets you take a photo of the bottle and add such information as year, price, rating, sweetness, smell and alcohol content.

So now that you know why trying as many wines as possible is so important, the next question is: What's the most cost-effective way to taste-test new bottles?

“Many wine shops have free tastings,” says Sbrocco. “This is a great way to try new bottles, and learn from professionals with a lot of experience.”

Another fun idea is to form your own tasting group--if everyone brings a bottle, you can try a number of different wines and compare notes. “Organize monthly tastings around themes,” says Sbrocco. “You can make it as broad as ‘red wine' or you can go more specific, like ‘wines from California.’”

They key is to sample different varieties of reds and whites from varied countries. Sbrocco recommends the following picks, which encompass a spectrum of flavors, from light and juicy to full-bodied and heavy.


To get you started with some affordable picks, Sbrocco has selected five of her recent favorites, including two bonus sparkling wines:

  • LeeLee

    Concha y Toro is a great pick!  So glad to see it on the list of affordable gems.

  • ranavain

    I’m a bit sad that the Pinot Noir location isn’t Oregon, which holds the annual Pinot Noir festival and is the Pinot capital of the world! Also, are those spectrums really accurate? I can’t imagine that Riesling is lighter or juicier than Moscato, but maybe I’m just thinking of sweetness? I was also surprised to see Zinfandel on the bottom of the red side, but I have a lot less experience with Zins.

    I love wine, but I didn’t use to. A friend bought me a semi-sparkling Moscato, knowing that I like sweet drinks, and it was the perfect introduction! Now I’m a big fan of everything, red and white. It’s well worth a little experimentation, and having a friend who can select something based on your other tastes is a great way to go.

    Also, definitely buy cheap! I lived in a town with a Grocery Outlet, and they had a pretty good selection of wine, including $3-$5 bottles. It’s a great way to just try everything and become familiar with all the flavors.

    • Leslie

       you’re exactly right about oregon pinot. i’m a big fan having spoken twice at the IPNC festival in mcminnville. we just didn’t have room for all the wonderful wines to talk about! cheers and happy holidays. leslie sbrocco