The wine taster's ritual of peering into a glass, swirling it around and sniffing suspiciously at it, before taking a mouthful only to spit it out again looks highly mysterious and technical. However, as you try more and more wines, your awareness of flavors and your personal preferences will develop. It is however a sequence of events that can enhance the enjoyment of good wine. Once learned, they become almost second nature to even the novice taster.
Wines Appearance Pour your wine into a wine glass so that it is about 40% full, you will need room for swirling. Have a good look at the wine. Is it clear, opaque, or cloudy? Does it contain sediments or other solid matter? Tilt the glass away from you at a 45-degree angle against a white background so you can enjoy the range of colors in the wine from the center to the rim. Wine changes color with age. Whites are at its palest state during their youth, gradually adding stronger color. Red wine, on the other hand, has more vivid color in its youth, slowly fading to brick red.
Smell the Wine Give your glass a vigorous swirl to help release the aromas. Swirling takes a bit of practice. This technique can be learned by leaving the wine glass on the table, holding it by the stem, and rotating it in small circles. The object is to get the wine to move up to around 70% of sides of the glass.
Stick your nose right into the glass and inhale steadily and gently, as if you were smelling a flower. These vital seconds of inhalation will reveal all kinds of familiar and unfamiliar smells. Try to detect the smell of fruity or floral notes. Decide what they remind you of if possible. Note the presence of spices, such as pepper, cinnamon, vanilla, tea or possibly nuts. Finally, note the presence of other aromas, such as cedar, oak, moist earth, herbs, chocolate, tobacco, toast, or smoke. Always interpret them in terms that mean something to you.
Remember, it's your nose that counts here. It does not matter if someone else interprets the smell differently, that is part of the pleasure of wine.
Taste At last, it is time to drink the wine. The following components that make up the flavor of the wine can be detected by rolling wine around in your mouth and concentrating on what comes to mind as you taste.
Sweetness This the fruit flavor tasted at the front of the tongue. This comes from the wine's fruit flavors as well as any fermented grape sugars left in the wine. If there is no perceived sweetness, a wine is dry.
Acidity This gives wine freshness and zest. When balanced, it makes for a fresh, crisp, enjoyable wine. On the other end of the spectrum, acidity can lend a negative, vinegary taste to the wine.
Tannin Comes from the stems and skins of the grape. It has a woody taste, similar to flavor released when biting a grape seed. Tannin can be mouth puckering, but it normally mellows with age.
Alcohol In low concentrations, alcohol portrays itself as somewhat sweet, and in high concentrations, it shows as a warm, pervasive sensation at the back of the mouth.
Fruitiness The intensity and flavor depends on the grape variety, growing conditions, and wine making techniques.
Balance For a good wine, there should be a balance of the above flavor components. If any one of the components is overpowering, the experience of drinking the wine can be tainted. This can sometimes mean that the wine is young and will become more balanced with age.