Start by observing the wine’s color. If it’s a
red wine, is the color maroon, purple, ruby, garnet, red or even brownish? If
it’s a white wine, is it clear, straw-like, golden, light green, pale yellow
or brown in appearance? These can be clues to the varietal and age.
You can learn a variety of things, such as age, type of grapes used and flavor concentration,
just by studying the wine’s color. Wines made in cooler climates, for
instance, usually have a lighter color than wines grown in warmer areas; and
older red wines are generally more translucent than their younger siblings.
Tilt your glass a bit. Give it a little swirl. The
swirling action helps aerate the wine, producing an oxidizing effect that
helps enhance the wine's flavor and natural aroma.
Your sense of smell is critical in properly analyzing a glass
of wine. To get a good impression of your wine’s aroma, gently swirl your
glass (enhancing the wine’s natural aromas) and then take a quick
whiff to gain a first impression.
Now stick your nose down into the glass and take a deep inhale through
your nose. What are your second impressions? Do you smell oak, berry,
flowers, vanilla or citrus? A wine’s aroma is an excellent indicator
of its quality and unique characteristics.
Finally, take a sip and taste. Let the wine roll around your tongue.
Although it is natural to sip your wine, slurping it will continue to oxidize the
liquid, allowing you to taste the flavors more fully.
After gathering your initial impression of the wine, allow a small breath of
air in through your lips and let the wine mingle with the air. This will allow you
to taste flavors more fully. Reds will often have berry, woody and bell pepper tastes.
White wines will often have apple, floral or citrus flavors associated with them.
A wine’s “finish” is also a component of the taste. This is how
long the flavor lasts after it is swallowed. Did it last several seconds? Was
it light-bodied (like water) or more full-bodied (thicker and rich)?
As you swish the wine through your mouth, your taste buds
will note the presence of fruit, acidity, and alcohol. If tannins are present,
your cheeks will feel an astringent puckering sensation, as is often the
case with red wine.
The tip of your tongue will detect the wine's degree of sweetness,
something your nose cannot do. Check for a balance of all the tastes
you sense. Now swallow and savor the taste. The longer the taste
stays in your mouth after swallowing, the higher the quality of
the wine. Above all, enjoy!