To begin, one must simply have access to wine. You can go to a winery or simply go to the store and pick up a few bottles that you find that look like they might be interesting. The cost doesn't matter - good wine can be found in some of the most surprising places. Don't let anyone tell you any different. Then, once you've got your hands on a bottle (or a few), it's time to start tasting. There are a few things to know however before you start your tasting. By following these steps, you can almost ensure that you will be able to get the most bang out of your buck. Let's get started.
Smell first, ask questions laterHave you ever hear the phrase, the nose, knows? While it is a commonly used phrase, it is never more commonly heard than around 'wine-o's. This is because a large part of the flavor of wine is hidden in the aromas that it can give off and while one would think that taste is something that comes from the tongue, a huge part of our taste actually comes from our sense of smell. This is another reason why our taste buds can feel off when we have a cold. When we can't smell right, our taste can be affected.
That being said, it is of great importance to make sure to release as much of the scent of the wine as possible. This is where the famous swirling of the glass comes in. By placing your fingers on the bottom of the glass with your palm downwards into the resting place of the wine glass, make circles with the foot of the glass. This will cause the wine in the glass to make a swirling motion. This swirling motion can release hidden scents or elevate the scents that are already placed into the glass. Once completed, simply raise the glass to your nose and ever so slightly tip the glass so that the tip of glass is right under your nose. It's best to try to make sure that there is a small amount of wine at the edge of the glass so that you can smell as best as possible. Also, be sure to take small whiffs in multiple inhales rather than one large inhale as your sense of smell can easily be overpowered and find itself dulled.
Try to take in the different scents of the wine. What do you smell? What are the biggest scents that can be picked out at first inhale? What are the underlying scents that might be hiding underneath? Don't be afraid to constantly go back for more to see what else might be hiding in the glass. Try not to rush through this phase before moving onto the next. You'll be amazed how much you can experience through wine through smell alone.
Determine the weight of the wineAfter you've given the wine a good 'smell through', you'll be able to move onto the tasting. Bring the glass to your lips and take a small sip of the wine. Swirl the mixture through your mouth. Try to determine how thick the mixture is. If it feels thick and almost like a glass of milk, you could say that it's a medium weight wine. If on the other hand, the wine tastes almost as thin as water, you could say that you are drinking a light weight wine. Lastly, if it feels even thicker than milk, almost like a creme, it's a full bodied wine.
While this step may seem a little weird, it's a very good thing to be aware of. I say this because determining the weight of the wine you drink can tell a lot about what that wine went through during its growth. Body is primarily derived from the amount of alcohol that is in the wine. That alcohol comes from sugar that comes from the sun's rays. By understanding this, you can generally determine where that wine came from. The more weight, the more Southern you could guess that the wine came from.
Determine the textureWhen you are swishing the wine throughout your mouth attempting to obtain the weight, you can also try to pick out the texture of the wine. Texture is something that gives us a lot of queues in life already. When you bite into a fresh piece of chicken, you know what texture you are searching for your mouth to feel. Different wines can fulfill that same standard. Where a Riesling can bring a crisp and refreshing texture to your mouth, a Pinot Noir can bring a silky contrasting flavor. This of course is much harder to pick up on than determining the weight. In fact, it wasn't until a few years ago that I even realized that I was reaching for this without even thinking about it.
Savor the tasteWe've finally moved on to the portion of the wine tasting where you can start to taste the wine. While you've been attempting to determine the weight and texture, you've undoubtedly obtained a few flavors swirling about in your mouth. What can you taste? Blueberries? Tobacco? Some flavors will be very prominent while others will be very subtle. It can also be the case that you and your friends taste very different flavors. This is due to the fact that not all tongues are created equal. Some people are better at detecting flavors than others due to their natural biological make up. If you're having trouble finding the flavors, a good tactic is to approach the tasting with a few flavors on your brain. Try to ask yourself, does this taste of blueberries? Does this taste of citrus? By asking and searching, you may find the flavors in the wine. In fact, from what I've read, this is a common tactic by many a Sommelier (wine experts). This is because it can often be too hard to pick flavors from a large bouquet of flavors if you're not actively asking for specific flavors.
Let the taste linger and pick out any last notesOnce you've picked out a few flavors, it's time to swallow the wine. Give it a good deep swallow and try not to open your mouth. Before you open your mouth again, breathe in through your nose. This allows the aroma of the wine to come up through your nasal passage way once more to give a much deeper flavor profile to help you determine any hidden tastes that you may have missed. Try to pick out anything that you had a difficult time finding previously.
Admire the beautyFinally, raise the glass up and give it a good look. Tilt the glass to the side to assist with identifying the color more accurately. The color of a wine can tell you a lot. For instance, white wines generally become darker as they age while red wines become more translucent.
All done! With this information, you very likely may find a deeper appreciation and understanding of how to taste wine. While this isn't the only way to go about tasting, I feel that it is a very good way of approaching wine tasting if you've never done so before. It can also make for a very fun afternoon or a nice touch to a dinner party. As a frugal tip, a good wine party can always be a BYOB party. That way you won't know who has brought what and you can have blind tastings to test your wine knowledge. I hope you all enjoyed this tutorial and I hope to hear from you all soon on any wine adventures that may come of this knowledge.