There are three key attributes that you should look for to define a wine: sight, nose and taste.
Let's start with sight.
First, pick up the glass by the stem or base, and hold the glass up to light, or near a candle on the table. There are two things to evaluate: color and clarity.
Color: Try to evaluate how intense the wine's color is and what it conveys about the character of the wine. A light, pale white wine will usually have less body and flavor compared to a golden wine. Similarly, a pale red wine will typically have less body than a deep, dark colored red wine.
Clarity: This term refers to the absence or presence of particles or sediment floating in the wine. Similar to a diamond, usually people will evaluate clarity as brilliant, clear or cloudy. Brilliant means absolutely no sediment and crystal clear. Clear means no sediment but not brilliant. Cloudy, of course means you can see sediment or particles, with a muddy look.
To evaluate the "nose" of a wine, swirl the wine in the glass to release the aromas. Hold the glass close to your nose and inhale. Don't be afraid to put your nose deep in the glass! Try to evaluate the aroma and bouquet. Aroma, similar to coffee, are smells that are directly related to the odor of the fresh wine grape. Bouquet refers to smells that come from the fermentation or aging process. You can also use the term bouquet to describe it's overall smell.
This one seems easy enough, right? But it's the one people struggle to describe. Start with a small amount of wine in your mouth, breath in some air through your nose, and then swallow slowly. As the wine passes your tongue and glides down your throat, try to evaluate the body and the finish of the wine.
Body is usually described in three ways: Light-Medium-Full
- Light = watery, or thin (think skim milk)
- Medium = fuller than light, but not too heavy in texture (think regular milk)
- Full = Very robust, rich, and mouth-coating in texture (think heavy cream)
Typically people describe finish as either short, long, clean, or unpleasant.
Short = Very little aftertaste, the wine's flavors disappear quickly.
Long = Lingering aftertaste; the wine's flavor is noticeable for some length of time.
Clean = Pleasurable finish, free of any unpleasant taste. It can be either long or short, or course.
Unpleasant = No surprise here: It's unpleasant, caused by bitterness, overly sweet, tart, or just bad flavors.All these terms will help you create an overall impression. Don't be afraid to try this at home. So on your way home, go to Trader Joe's, Costco or your local wine store and pick up a few bottles of wine, relax with a few glasses and have some fun with these terms.