Tasting wine can be a fun, educational and even an enlightening experience. With a few techniques, and ideas of what to look and taste for, wine can be much more than fermented grape juice. There are four steps to tasting wine and each step should be a deliberate process. In a large tulip shaped glass, pour yourself a small sample of wine and follow these steps.
Check the color and clarity of the wine. The wine should be brilliant and not cloudy. Tilt your glass and look down on the wine against a white background. As wines age, the color of the wine will change. White wines become yellow and may show a tint of brown along the edges of the glass. This will prepare you for a wine that has mellowed and perhaps is not as fruity as it once was. Red wines lose color and look brickish which may indicate the wine will no longer have its youthful vigor. Instead it may be well aged with softer tannins and more complex flavors.
Smell, Aroma or “The Nose”
The aroma of the wine is a very important factor since we are able to perceive more flavors and nuances with our nose than we can with our palate. To get the most out of the wine, swirl your wine to aerate it and allow the juice to coat the sides of the glass. As the wine slides down the glass, get your nose into it and smell the wine. With this technique the aromas from the wine will be concentrated and easier to discern and enjoy. In white wines find the fruit, floral, grassy, mineral, clove and perhaps wood aromas. For red wines, you may discover spice, nuts, mint, earthy flavors, leather, blueberries and oak.
The palate picks up sweet, sour, and bitter components. Be sure to move the wine around your mouth to get the full tactile sensation of the acids, sweetness and tannins. To enjoy the aromatic components of the wine take in a little air through your mouth, and with a slight gargling sound, you get the full impact of the wine. Enjoy the complexity of these sensations and look for flavors of pepper, plums, perfume, tar, cinnamon, bell peppers and chocolate.
A good wine has a lingering and well balanced aftertaste. Some wines may have a strong or sharp aftertaste of acidity or intense wood flavors, or no aftertaste at all. If the wine is made well, from quality fruit, it will have long lingering aromas and nuances that are in harmony.