How to Use Our Wine Tasting Mat (+ Free Downloadable Tasting Mat)

Using a wine tasting mat helps you describe wines, remember them more easily and start figuring out your preferences in wine. The steps in this sheet are the same as those used in professional wine tastings, so you can start thinking about wine like an expert! Using a wine tasting mat in a wine tasting lets you compare different wines from the same vintage, region or grape variety.

Download WineCollective’s Free Wine Tasting Mat

To get started, download your tasting mat.

Pour yourself a small amount of wine, grab your tasting mat and a pen, and you’re ready to get started. 

How to Use a Tasting Mat – Step 1: Look

See how your wine looks in the glass. Note the colour and colour intensity. Be specific! if it’s a red wine, is it more purple, ruby, or brown? Is the colour vibrant and opaque or light and clear? (It helps to hold your glass up to a white surface.) Mark the gradient where the colour is the closest match with your wine. Assess viscosity by tilting your glass – more viscous wines will leave a film or ‘tears’ on the sides of the glass.

How to Use a Tasting Mat – Step 2: Smell

Start with one sniff for a first impression. Before smelling it again, swirl the glass to release the aromatics. Bring the glass right up to your nose – don’t worry about getting too close! Take a deep inhale and consider the notes you’re smelling. If you’re stuck, start with broad categories like ‘fruity’ first, then narrow it down from there. 

Would you like to learn more about tasting notes in wine, where they come from and why we use them? Would you like to learn more about tasting notes in wine, where they come from and why we use them? Sometimes they can seem a bit highbrow and be intimidating, but they don’t need to be. Everyone has their own unique palate and can learn how to identify flavours in wine – so don’t worry, we’re here to guide you on your journey. We have even put together a handy aroma dictionary to help you get started!

How to Use a Tasting Mat – Step 3: Taste

It’s time to taste your wine. Take a sip, and try to get the wine everywhere on your palate for a fuller sense of the flavours (yes, this is why experts swish wine around in their mouths). 

Tasting Wine for: Sweetness

Does the wine have some residual sugar, or is it completely dry? (A hint of) sweetness can be felt at the tip of your tongue.

Tasting Wine for: Acidity

Did the wine have a high, medium or low acidity level? How much did the wine make your mouth water? Did you feel a little or a lot of tingling on the sides of your tongue?

Tasting Wine for: Tannins

Tannins in red wines have a drying, puckery effect on the palate. Tannin-heavy wines are bitter or astringent and feel like they remain on your tongue even after you swallow.

Tasting Wine for: Alcohol

Wines with a high alcohol content tend to be full-bodied and more viscous. 

Tasting Wine for: Body

Here, you can write down if the wine was light-bodied, medium-bodied or full-bodied. With ‘body’ we mean how heavy or light a wine feels on the palate.

Tasting Wine for: Finish

How long does the taste of wine linger in your mouth? 

Why Bother Writing Down Tasting Notes?

If you follow this structured tasting process with each new wine you add to your collection, you’ll gradually start noticing more subtle flavours. You’ll also build a working knowledge of the characteristics of different types of wine. Giving the wine a starred rating helps you understand what characteristics in wine you’re drawn to (or not!). Don’t forget to write down the name of the wine you’re tasting to refer back to later!

How to Use a Tasting Mat for a Vertical Tasting

If you have wine-loving friends or family members, it’s fun to sit down together and do a wine tasting together. There are multiple approaches to such a tasting. In a vertical tasting, you’d compare the same wine from different vintages. This lets you appreciate the subtle differences in the wine year over year, as well as discover how the wine ages over time. This is particularly interesting if you compare vintages that are many years, even decades apart. Sometimes, the vertical approach is extended to include wines from the same region, but still compared over different vintages. 

How to Use a Tasting Mat for a Horizontal Tasting

With “horizontal tasting” we don’t mean sipping wine while lying down. It’s a way to describe a tasting in which you taste wines from different wineries in one region, but from the same vintage. Alternatively, you could organize a tasting around one grape variety from different regions (still from the same year). This lets you appreciate the different styles that winemakers can have, or how influential terroir can be on the expression of a single grape variety. 

Our WineCollective store gives you plenty of options for a horizontal tasting. How about a Pinot Noir tasting? Or one revolving Chardonnay?

How to Use a Tasting Mat for a Blind Tasting

You can use the tasting mat for a blind tasting as well. Before the tasting, cover the bottles with a bottle bag, brown bag or aluminum foil and number them. Start tasting the mystery wines one by one, writing down your observations. You’re welcome to discuss the characteristics of the different wines or keep your observations to yourself and try making educated guesses based on your notes. The big reveal is always the most fun part! 

Our Blinders Refill Packs contain three bottles that are wrapped up, so nobody in your group knows what you are tasting. We have an all-red, mixed or all-white pack