A glass of red wine is in the foreground, in front of a sweeping picture of a vineyard

By Lynne Coyle Master of Wine | O'Briens Wine Director

Wine Mindfully

A lot of work goes into creating a great bottle of wine and taking the time to truly savour a glass of your favourite wine can really add to your enjoyment of it. The “wine mindfully” concept is all about tuning into and fully considering the wine you’re about to drink. To question where the wine is from, when the grapes were harvested, and to appreciate the aromas and flavours. Throughout this mindful exercise you can enhance your overall understanding, experience, and appreciation of the wine.

Image: Marques de Murrietta

Top tips for enjoying your wine mindfully:

First, pick any bottle of wine, the only criteria being that you like the label. Don’t open it yet, sit the bottle in front of you. Consider how many senses you will use when you eventually open the wine, pour it, smell it and taste it, and how you can enhance these senses if you take more time to fully consider every aspect of the wine.

  • Do you recognise the grape variety?
  • Have you tried it before?
  • What do you know about the grape?
  • Maybe explore how vines grow, their annual life cycle, how wine is made or the issues grape growers face, such as climate challenges.

Consider using a decanter, just for its beauty. Decanters are normally used when a wine requires "breathing" to allow its fruit to open up and develop. However, decanters can and should be used simply because they are attractive and can add style to any occasion. Decanters are typically used for red wine but you can easily use them for richer, fuller white wines which will look very enticing.

The pour

Next, take your favourite wine glass, which should be long-stemmed, tulip shaped and made of thin glass. It need not be expensive, but these features are important as they will allow you to assess and enjoy the colour and the wine’s aromas more fully.

Gently pour two mouthfuls of wine (2 horizontal fingers width), then take your glass by the stem, and tilt it gently towards a white background to fully appreciate its colour.

Whether your wine is amber, red, white, or rosé consider the colour carefully. Have you seen this colour before in wine? In nature? In food? Does the colour appeal? The colour is defined by its grape variety, its age, the wine's style and the winemaking. Pinot Noir, for example, tends to be lighter in colour due to its thin skins and light extraction methods versus a darker, more opaque Australian Shiraz, for example.

The nose

To assess the "nose", or smell, of the aromas, pick up your glass by the stem and put your nose deep into the glass. Take two or three full sniffs - think about what you smell; what does it remind you of? Wine is made from grapes but it may trigger memories of other aromas.

The aroma and memory

What you can identify in a wine’s aroma and flavour is deeply personal as taste recognition differs from person to person depending on individual experience. If, for example, you have never tasted a fresh guava, you would struggle to recognise it in your wine. Even if the wine’s flavour is dominated by a guava-like fruit character, you may identify melon instead and this is fine.

The taste

Now for the best part, the taste. Take a mouthful of wine and swirl it over your palate, gums, and tongue. Consider the flavours, do they relate to the nose? Think about the wine’s style and structure. Is it dry, off-dry or sweeter in style? Sweetness can be easily confused with ripe fruit flavours so it can be helpful to consider honey as sweet and anything less a version of dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet etc.

Start your own tasting note booklet, develop your own wine tasting language, a language of descriptions that evokes something personal. It will soon become apparent that the same grape variety triggers your brain's “taste” memory, which will allow you to identify a common thread between grapes and wine styles.

The structure

Simply put, a wine’s structure is how the wine presents on the palate. Here, the key components to look for are acidity and alcohol and, where appropriate, tannin and oak. In a well-balanced wine, all component parts of the wine should be in harmony.

What is acidity?

All wine contains acidity - although it may be more noticeable in white wines. With acidity, use fresh lemon juice as your benchmark; high acidity can be detected on the sides of the tongue by a slight salivation. Acidity is important for wine because it keeps the flavour profile fresh, balances the fruit, alcohol and body on the palate and helps a wine age and evolve successfully. 


Now assess the alcohol, which should be in balance with the other structural aspects of the wine. This means that the alcohol should not stand out and there should be no alcohol "burn" at the back of the throat, regardless of a wine’s percentage of alcohol.

Image: Bodegas Riojanas


Tannin is mainly associated with red wines. If you imagine leaving a pot of tea to infuse for too long, those "grippy" mouth-drying sensations that result are tannins. The level of tannin in red wine is dependent firstly upon grape variety (for example Pinot Noir is low in tannins and Cabernet Sauvignon has naturally high levels of tannin). Typically, tannins are more prominent in younger wines, but winemaking choices and the ageing process are also influential e.g. ageing in oak will usually impart additional tannins.


With both red and white wine, the use of oak in the cellar can greatly influence its tannin structure. The age, size of barrel, type of wood and toasting level as well as the cooper’s (barrel maker) skill all have an influence on the wine. The current trend is towards judicious oak use that does not overpower the other structural aspects of the wine. Even a wine with notable tannins should still be structurally balanced and harmonious.

The finish

The aftertaste, or the finish, relates to the flavours, structural aspects, and overall impression of the wine once it has been swallowed (or perhaps spat in a professional wine tasting environment). This stage of the tasting helps you assess a wine's intensity based on the length of time the flavours stay in your mouth once the wine has left it. A harmonious, persistent finish usually suggests that the wine is of good quality.

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