Wine Aficianados Head to the Marriott

JW Marriott's Quick Wine Tasting Tips

When you write about hip hotels, new travel trends, wine, cheese, and random international things, we like to have something that sets a solid standard. Throughout the years we’ve also been noticing that Marriott Hotels are keeping up like the engine that could. Quality service, reliable staff, and delicious onsite restaurants make it a favorite among families and in-the-know execs because it’s unexpectedly solid.

So, we thought we’d ask them what’s new and here’s what we learned. They’re helping us learn about our favorite thing in life… WINE.

Top Twelve Tasting Tips from JW Wine Ambassadors:

Bottom line: Drinking wine is all about enjoyment. By following these simple wine-tasting tips from JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts’ passionate and knowledgeable Wine Ambassadors, anyone can discover the panoply of flavors and aromas waiting inside their next bottle of wine:

1.  Begin with the “5-S” rule: See, Sniff, Swirl, Sip and Savor.  Evaluate the wine for color, clarity, brightness, concentration, rim variation, viscosity and evidence of sediment. To do this, start with a clear wine glass and pour a small amount of the wine into the glass–about a third of the way to half-full.  Slightly tilt the glass away from you to get a good sense of the wine as it is stretched across the plane of the glass.

2.  Check the wine’s color by looking from the glass rim to center. Look beyond red, white or blush. Red wines can be maroon, purple, ruby, garnet, red, brick or brown; white wines can be clear, pale yellow, straw, light green, golden, amber or brown. Now look for opacity. Does the wine look watery or dark, translucent or opaque, dull or brilliant, clear or cloudy?  Older reds will often have orange tinges, older whites will be darker. Age is a key indicator of flavor development and wines change over time.

3.  Detect the wine’s aroma by drawing on this reference guide that covers several of the  more popular red and white varietals:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: black currant, mint, plum, eucalyptus, bell pepper, olives, vanilla, black cherry, cedar, anise, cassis
  • Merlot: red berries, black berries, herb, bell pepper, plum, violets, cassis, fruit cake, chocolate
  • Pinot Noir: red currant, strawberry, cherry, raspberry, violets, mushrooms, decaying leaves, cola
  • Surah/Shiraz: raspberry, black or white pepper, blackberry, red or black currant, cassis, jam, smoke, leather, tar, coffee
  • Zinfandel: wild berries, raspberry, plum, pepper, bramble earth
  • Chardonnay: apple, melon, peach, pineapple, pear, lemon, fig, honey, butter, toast
  • Sauvignon Blanc: grass, gooseberry, nettles, herbs, tropical fruit, citrus
  • Riesling: green apple, lime, peach, grapefruit, honeysuckle, mineral, slate, floral, petrol, toast.

4.  Swirl the wine for about 12-15 seconds, allowing the aromas to mix. Now, sniff again.  A wine’s aroma is a great indicator of its quality and unique characteristics.

5.  Sip and savor the wine, letting its flavors roll around your mouth before swallowing.  Be aware of the wine’s initial impression on your palate. Is it soft or firm? Crisp or creamy? Sweet or dry?  How long does the flavor impression last after swallowing?  Is there a strong after-taste of the wine on the back of your mouth and throat? What was your last flavor impression?

6.  Allow the taste to linger. When you taste, “chew” on the wine a bit by moving it around on your tongue.  Enjoy letting the flavors wash over your palate.

7.  “Weigh” the wine. Is it pleasantly weighty? Is it light (similar to the weight of water?) Medium-bodied (similar in weight to milk)? Or full-bodied (similar in consistency to cream)?

8.  Check for the wine’s acidity. Does it make your mouth water? Do you want another sip or was the wine too bitter at the end?

9.  Note other “sensations.” A dry feeling after drinking indicates the presence of tannin; highly alcoholic wines are described as “hot.”

10.  Use appropriate stemware. Wine glasses with a tulip shape are generally ideal for two reasons: When you swirl the wine, the aromas you set free are better contained within the glass; and the tapered rim makes it harder to splash wine over yourself. Incidentally, the “rule” that holding the bowl portion of the glass warms the wine is pure nonsense—the wine will not be in the glass long enough to experience temperature change.

11.  Don’t pour it on. By filling the glass only about one-third of the way, you will leave plenty of room for error when swirling and tilting.  Also you will allow space for aromas to build.

12.  Mind the thermometer. If white wines are poured too cold, the aromas will be hard to distinguish. Most refrigerators bring white wine to 35 degrees (F.) when it should actually be served between 41 and 48 degrees (F), depending on the varietal. Similarly, red wines should not be too warm and should be served cooler than room temperature—between 57 and 64 degrees (F).

Helping to heighten the wine tasting experience for its guests, JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts has introduced its Wine Ambassador’s program at its 46 locations worldwide.  The JW Wine Ambassadors are a volunteer cadre of wine experts from all areas of the hotel where wine is available and who represent the highest level of wine expertise at the property. A number of resources were specially developed for the Wine Ambassador program, including training articulates on how to appropriately prepare a wine tasting and tasting mats illustrated with cues from the deductive tasting process of the Court of Master Sommeliers.  Personalized wine journals were also given to all Ambassadors as a tool for them to reflect on and record their learnings.

Before being designated a JW Marriott Wine Ambassador, all those volunteering to serve in this capacity must complete two certification programs.  This curriculum offers a series of 17 self-directed training modules on topics such as opening and serving wine, pairing food and wine, and in-depth overviews of varietal characteristics and wine growing regions. To ensure that each Ambassador’s wine expertise remains current and relevant, all Certified Wine Ambassadors participate in monthly tastings across the globe—tasting wines of different brands but of the same varietal.  Monthly tasting notes are then shared with their peers throughout the JW Marriott portfolio in 19 countries on a website developed especially for this purpose.

More information available at

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