How To Taste Wine Like A Sommelier

Watch and learn from Alex Alan of Freek's Mill in Brooklyn

All month long, we are paying homage to the mighty grape. Grab a glass and join us as we Wine Down.

You like wine, but sometimes you question yourself when you're handed a glass at a restaurant or bar. Are you really supposed to swirl, or is that just something people do for show? What's the right way to smell it, and why do you have to put all this effort into the first sip anyway?

We tap Alex Alan, beverage director and partner of Freek's Mill in Brooklyn, to tell us how to really taste wine and show us how it's done.

Once you understand the reason behind each step, you'll feel a lot more confident when you reach for that glass, and you'll better appreciate the wine and the tasting ritual, too.

① Pick up the glass by the foot or stem to prevent any temperature changes to the wine by holding the bulb of the glass.

Swirl the wine in the glass to release aromas.

③ Smell the wine by sticking your nose directly into the glass. Taking in the aroma primes your palate and is just as important as the first sip, if not more so, in informing your taste.

④ Check the wine's appearance at any point for impurities, or to see if there's anything wrong with the color.

Finally, take a sip! If you want to get really serious, you can aerate the wine in your mouth as if you're sipping through a straw. You can also inhale and exhale through your nose before opening your mouth to get as much of the flavor as possible. Pay attention to the texture (is it tannic, leaving your mouth dry?), as well as the flavors and aromas (are there hints of fruit, minerals or herbs?), and think about what you're tasting.

Most importantly, enjoy a glass with someone you like, because the best wine pairing of all is good company. Cheers to that!