Tilt glass at a 45-degree angle, preferably over a white background. Look for color, clarity, and intensity.
White: straw, gold, amber, yellow-green Red: purple, ruby, garnet, brick, ink, opaque Intense colors may be an indicator of a full body. Older reds may be lighter along the rim of the glass.
Clarity: Should be clear not cloudy
Intensity: The viscosity "thickness" of the wine may indicate age in reds and sweetness in whites. Sediment may also be a sign of age in red wines. What colors and intensity do you see?
Hold the glass by the stem. Swirl the wine in the glass to expand the wines surface and expose to air. This helps the wine open. Legs running down the glass may indicate alcohol, sweetness, or body.
Put your nose deep inside and sniff. Then sniff a few more times looking for aromas of fruit, flowers, minerals, herbs, spice, and oak. Whites have aromas of light skinned fruits and reds have aromas of dark skinned fruits. Wood, smoke, vanilla and spice are often indicators of oak. What do you smell?
Take a sip and swirl the wine all around your mouth so all your taste buds are exposed to it. Consider and determine the wine's temperature, body, flavors, balance (of fruit, acidity, tannins, alcohol), and finish. Serving wines too cold will mute the fruit. Wines served too warm will taste overly alcoholic. Balanced wines have integrated fruit, acidity (sharp and crisp taste), tannins (dry bitter taste), and alcohol, rather than one overpowering the others. Finish is how long the wine lingers in the mouth after tasting (short, moderate, or long finish).
Do you taste fruit?
What flavors do you taste?
Do you taste alcohol?
Do you taste bitterness?
Do you taste astringency?
Do these balance each other, or does one overwhelm?
Is the wine of good quality, meaning balanced (or aging will bring balance) and complex (layered with subtle flavors)?
Did you like the wine?