When tasting wine try to be relaxed and at ease. Imagine yourself out in nature exploring whatever you come near. When you first sample the aromas of a wine close your eyes and try to recall your past and think of all the smells you have experienced. Ok, take this little test before you start and try to visualize and recall these aromas: A car tire, honey, dirt, the beach, fresh cut grass, new leather seats, gasoline, oranges, lemons and roses. After you have done this your mind will be primed to look up more aromas of your past. When tasting multiple wines start with the lighter colored ones and work your way to the darker ones.
Pour your wine into the appropriate type of glass, filling to 1 to 2 ounces. The first thing you want to look at is the color and clarity. For a white wine the color could vary from clear to pale yellow, light green to golden or, honey and yellow brown. For red wines the colors vary from pink to red, garnet and deep purple, to a rich and hearty maroon. The clarity will show how well the wine has been refined; a cloudy wine may have some sediment, possibly suffer from bottle shock, and should be decanted. Is there any cork or floating bits in the wine? If so, take care the wine may be unsuitable to drink, the contents may be contaminated. Let someone else try it; (just kidding). Send it back for another bottle. Up to 10% of wines with a natural cork may not be good (corked). This occurs when the corks have a fungus on them prior to bottling that taints the wine. Recently, with the newer plastic corks and screw caps, the demand for natural cork is less, and a better quality cork comes out of the heart of the plant and not from the outer limbs where the fungus tends to be present.
Legs and tears help define the body and viscosity (thickness) of the wine. This indicates alcohol content, or alcohol volume. Swirl to get the wine up along the sides of the glass, let settle and see if legs form and if they are fat and slow or thin and fast. Check the labels for alcohol levels; up to 10.5% is considered light bodied, to 12.5% medium and over 12.5 full body. If no legs form, this wine is low alcohol level with higher sugar levels.
Always take a hearty sniff of your freshly swirled wine by placing your nose deep inside the glass and inhaling fully. Think about your past and all the aromas your experienced, do you smell oak, vanilla, berry, flower, citrus, lemon, grapefruit, honey, apple, peach, cherry, caramel, butter, cedar, coffee, toast, almond, walnut, hazelnut, mint fig, prune, black currant, strawberry, raspberry, tar, petrol, and rubber to name a few. On the undesirable side, wet dog or wool, rotten eggs, garlic, sulfur, vinegar, mold, mushrooms, skunk or, cabbage may be present and I recommend you taste with caution or try another bottle of the same wine or, just move on to another wine.
Tasting is, relatively speaking, the culmination of the entire wine experience. Take a generous sip of the wine and hold it in your mouth, then roll it from the front of your tongue to the back while aerating it gently, inhaling through your mouth. Each area of your tongue is sensitive to different flavors. Some of the flavors can be defined as: fruity, floral, spicy, chemical, vegetable, earthy, woody, bitter, sweet, salty and sour. Some may add umami or, tasty??
How does the wine feel in your mouth? Is it smooth and velvety like Creme Brule or closer to harsh and astringent as biting into an unpeeled lemon! Does it have a dry feeling or a sweet feeling? Is it heavy like honey or light as water? Does it coat your entire mouth and linger or slide past your tongue without a trace?
After you have coated your mouth with the wine your next choice is now whether to spit or swallow. Either way once the wine is clear, pay close attention to what flavors linger and any transformations that may occur. How long does the flavor stay with you, is it a few seconds or does it last longer. This will determine if the wine has a long or short finish. I find knowing this is very important in food pairing so that food with a short finish isn't overpowered by a wine with a long finish that dominates the meal.