The only surefire way to truly enhance your comprehension of wine is to taste as many as possible! That is a tough lot in life. You can read countless books to study the academic side of wine tasting, but I believe that actually tasting the wine provides a more solid education. Not to mention, it is much more pleasurable.
There are basic steps to follow when tasting wine:
It is best to observe wine in natural light and hold the glass up in front of you by the bottom of the stem at an angle, using a white background. The color of a wine can tell you a lot: type of grapes, region, age, how it was aged.
White wines will range in color (from youngest to oldest): pale yellow-green, straw yellow, yellow-gold, gold, yellow-brown and brown.
Red wines will range in color (from youngest to oldest): purple, ruby, red, brick red, red-brown and brown.
As white wines age, they gain color. As red wines age, they lose color. Both end up brown in the last stages.
Keep in mind that two people may be looking at the same white wine and what one person classifies as straw yellow another person may call yellow-brown. Perception is subjective.
Swirl the wine to allow oxygen in, releasing the wine’s bouquet. The bouquet of a wine refers to the smell of the wine, the fermentation process and aging. The aroma of a wine refers to the smell of the grapes and fruit composition. The nose of a wine describes the bouquet and aroma.
The average person can identify over two thousand scents. Don’t be discouraged by this, though. The majority of the smells are ordinary, everyday scents. After giving the glass a good swirl, put your nose into the glass and take a deep sniff. It is not recommended to smell again for at least two minutes because the olfactory bulb has nerve ends that take time to reactivate. Because of this, taking multiple whiffs of the same wine immediately can reveal less and less. Do smell the wine multiple times, though.
Your tongue is only able to perceive four tastes: sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Apart from these four taste perceptions, we actually smell rather than taste. It can be a difficult concept to understand, but all food or drink emits odor vapors in the mouth that are often perceived as taste. Ninety percent of taste is actually smell.
Take some time after you taste to enjoy the wine and evaluate it. Contemplate what you just experienced and decide the levels of residual sugar, fruit, acid and tannins. Determine if you found the wine to be light-, medium- or full-bodied. And most importantly, decide what your personal opinion was of the wine!