As often as possible, I'll blindly taste some wine and try to guess what is in the glass.
There are varying levels of specificity... but I'm going to keep it simple for now.
I know many Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers have to guess the year the wine was bottled (Vintage, the year the grapes were harvested), where it came from (down to the Village, sometimes) and what grapes were used to make that wine.
Again, I want to have realistic goals, so getting down to the specific village might be a bit over-my-head right now. I plan to start off more general, with mainly concentrating on:
- grape types (varetials)
but, of course, I'll do my best to pick out:
- roughly how old it is (within a few years... basically, is it a baby, a kid, a teenager, or a mature adult?)
- place (old world/new world, and hopefully country & region if possible)
The reason why the last two points are important is because the
depending on WHERE and WHEN it was grown...
You might LOVE California Chardonnay, but not enjoy Chablis (which is Chardonnay from Northern France, typically made in a VERY different style from most Californian Wine). See here for a discussion.
How I taste wine...
Some nice person (either at a wine shop, bar, or my husband) pours me a glass of wine without telling me anything about it.
I look, smell, and taste what is in the glass.* Then, take a shot in the dark and try to guess what I'm drinking.
*This is just a brief overview: See TASTING TERMS for more information.
Appearance: What does the wine look like in the class?
What I look for is color (ruby? purple? maybe brick?), opacity (can I see through the wine), rim variation (if the color goes all the way to the edge or if it starts to get clear), viscosity (how "thick" the wine is..). All these are clues as to what grapes and the age of the wine.
Nose: What does the wine smell like?
In general, I look for what "general" profile of scents. Right now, I'm happy if I can get a broad category, such as red fruits (strawberries, raspberries, etc) vs purple fruits (plums) vs stone fruits (peaches, apricots) vs tropical (pineapple, mango) vs citrus (lemon, lime, grapefruit) vs orchard (apples). Beyond fruits, there can be floral notes, herbs, spices, minerals, earthiness, etc.
Palate: What does the wine taste like?
Most of flavors mirror what you detected on the nose, but sometimes you'd be surprised... But the key aspects of what you detect when you sip the wines are:
- body (the "mouthfeel")
- alcohol (does my throat/nose burn?)
- acidity (does my mouth water?)
- tannins (does my mouth feel dry?)
As a scientist, I've already started to try and think of various ways to keep score of my failures/succusses to help inform where I'm making the most mistakes... (maybe I'll be terrible at white wines, but okay at Italian Reds?)
For now, I just hope I can get a few right...