First and foremost, drinking wine should be pleasurable and uncomplicated. At the end of the day, it’s a beverage and you should never feel intimidated or pressured to explain what you think about it.

If you want to go further than just filling a wine glass and chugging it down, here are some suggestions to evaluate a wine.

What does the wine look like?

Tilt a glass at a 45-degree angle and look at the wine against something white, like a napkin. Is the wine clear or cloudy? Examine the color. Bright or subdued?  Look at the rim of the wine. Is there a brownish tinge, indicating an older wine that may be in decline?

Smell the Wine

Swirl a glass of wine to agitate its aromas. Stick your nose in the glass and take a couple of sniffs.

Is the aroma strong or weak? What do you smell? Common scents in white wines are yellow, white and orange fruits. In reds, they can be red, purple, black and blue fruits.  Irrespective of the color of wine, many give off floral, herbal or spice scents. Oak aromas such as vanilla, cedar or oak may also be detectable, if oak was used in making the wine.

Some wines have a funky aroma to them. Often it is described as a barnyard smell. It does not necessarily mean the wine is bad, though it may be. Give it some time to ‘blow off’ then take a sip.

Tasting the Wine

Now comes the fun part!

Some people are incredible tasters; able to detect and describe flavors many of us cannot. Don’t let that deter you from having fun with it.

The temperature of the wine is critical to its taste.  Assuming the guidelines laid out in an earlier article were followed, take a sip of wine and move it around in your mouth. Make sure it hits every part of your mouth, as there are sensors everywhere. In fact, much of your ‘taste’ comes through your nasal passages.

Is the wine light bodied or full?

Are the flavors bold or weak? What flavors? Do they mirror what you got from the aroma?

Are the wine’s flavors balanced? Or does something stick out? 

Is the wine ‘hot’? Meaning too high in alcohol.

How are the tannins? Gripping, astringent? Silky or smooth?

Take another sip. This time concentrate on the finish of the wine. How long do the flavors last?

This doesn’t have to be a serious endeavor. These steps should enhance your wine drinking experience. It is a lot of fun to do this with other people and bounce your discoveries off each other.