Wine tasting should be fun. Why? Because wine is fun! Wine is a celebration of life. It celebrates life in the vineyard and in the bottle when shared with friends and family. Tasting is the experience of enjoying that celebration and appreciating the efforts that went into creating the experience.
The first step in wine tasting is swirling your wine. Swirling has two purposes. First, it let's you assess the color. This is an important indicator of age, ingredients, and winemaking style. For example, if you are swirling a white wine and notice it is a little green around the edges, it might indicate youth.
The second reason for swirling your wine is to experience the aroma. Swirling pushes the flavor aromas to interact with the air trapped in your glass. The aroma is so crucial to some wine connoisseurs that they choose their stemware based on varietals. If you only have one type of glass at home, don't worry about it. Just leave enough room for the air and wine aroma to mix.
Now, swirl the wine around and inhale deeply. You might try inhaling with your eyes closed to really take in the different aromas.
As you enjoy the different aromas, your senses will be getting a preview of what is coming next. A Cabernet may have aromas of cherries and chocolate. It may also have some green pepper tones depending upon the ripeness of the fruit when it was picked and the specific region of the vineyard. The aromas can also indicate levels of complexity to a wine. The first sniff may offer fruit or even floral tones but with more air these might change or succumb to other aromas. Take your time and don't rush this part. It's a lot of fun!
Experiencing the aromas of a wine can also be your first clue to any potential problems. For example, if a bottle is corked, you might notice a wet newspaper or cardboard aroma.
Once you've enjoyed the aromas of your wine, it's time for your first sip. Sipping and rolling the wine around your tongue is the final, and the most important, part of the tasting process. In your mouth, you will be able to taste each of the various flavors and also get a sense of the way the wine feels in your mouth. Pinot Noirs are famous for feeling soft and silky while a Sauvignon Blanc can feel crisp and clean and is an indication of nice acid structure. There are some Cabernets that can leave your mouth feeling dry. That feeling occurs from tannins that are in the wine.
Sipping and tasting will give you an idea of the flavors, mouth-feel and tannin level (which can be an indicator of age and fruit source). Mouth-feel is what you can use as a tool to help you determine whether a wine is light, medium, or full-bodied.
Don't be afraid to discuss your tasting experiences. Throw caution to the wind and talk out loud. Just say whatever comes to your mind and what you think of the wine. What do you see, sniff, taste and feel? Do you like it? Does it pair well with the food you're eating? Ask yourself these questions and then try another sip. The most important part is to have fun and enjoy your wine. Let your palate be your ultimate wine guide.