Welcome to Mark O’Neill’s Wine Blog

I have been a wine professional for nearly 30 years and it still fascinates me because I learn new things all the time.   However, many people find wine intimidating but remember it is just fermented grape juice.  So here are some wine tasting tips you can use to taste like a professional.

Taste is personal, so trust your judgement.  If some people around you have different views that’s fine, the first step in learning about wine appreciation is trusting your first reaction.

The best and most economic way to quickly develop wine skills and be able to distinguish between wines is to get together with a group of friends and taste different wines.  Buy wines from different regions of Spain and different countries and taste them.  This will help you to remember the key elements: Grape variety, country, region and name of the wine.

Be adventurous.  Wine is global not just local so try wines from the ‘Old World’ Spain, France, Italy, alongside those from the ‘New World’ Australia, Argentina, Chile and taste the differences. For example, you could taste a Garnacha from Calatayud alongside a Grenache (also Garnacha) from the Rhone Valley in France

Very quickly you will become familiar with the most well known regions in those countries and the popular grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Merlot and Malbec.

Approach tasting each wine in a methodical manner. First with you eyes, consider the appearance.  Second, the aromas, swirl the wine to release the aromas, this takes a bit of practise but by practicing step and two you have now evaluated 70% of the wine.  Thirdly, taste the wine, make sure take enough to cover your palate and so you get all the flavours.  By evaluating a wine in this way you will quickly tune you nose and palate to find the styles you prefer.

Do not make your decision on a wine by looking at the price tag or name.  Remember the objective is the build up your awareness and confidence when it comes to getting the most pleasure out of wine.

How to find the right wines?  If you have a local wine store in your neighbourhood go in and get to know the people working there.  Normally they will well informed and enthusiastic to help.

Restaurant wine lists are notoriously poorly explained and often too long.  Wine in a restaurant is expensive so ask questions and say how much you want to spend.   Hopefully the waiter will be informed and know the wines be able to advise you on a wine to go with your meal.

Use your phone to check reviews of a wine online.  This can often be useful when deciding between two wines.

The more you know the more comfortable you will be asking for information without fearing that you will sound silly.

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I am a Northern Irishman based in Valencia. My career in wine began more than three decades ago, in London. I am the founder of TheWinePlace.es, an online store, where wine enthusiasts can enjoy a selection of international wines and Verde Marte, a company dedicated to exporting Spanish wines. Also, Thewineplace.courses, an "approved program provider" of the courses of the prestigious WSET. I share my passion for wines through my media work writing weekly columns for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo and 5 Barricas, an online wine magazine.

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