Take a small sip, and swish it around your mouth, making contact with your tongue and gums. Taste receptors detect sweetness, acidity, bitterness, and even umami (savory) in wine, while tannins will have a drying effect on your gums. The texture and body of the wine as it glides over the tongue, it’s alcohol content when it hits the back of the throat (a warm sensation means higher alcohol), and the finish (how long the taste of the wine resonates in your mouth), all give you a more complete picture. Slurping is another technique, where you draw in air across the wine in your mouth, aerating it, which allows the aromas to go up your rear nasal passage, registering in your brain what you’re smelling. Slurping takes some practice, and may be messy at first, but it’s very effective at unfurling the aromas of wine.
Always repeat the tasting ritual twice, to get the true character of the wine. Your mouth has to get used to the alcohol and acidity before you can judge its merits. It’s always better to taste wine when you are slightly hungry, as your senses are sharper. Do taste white wines before red, so that you can appreciate the more delicate nature of most whites, compared to the mouth-coating nature of reds, with its tannins and higher sugar content.
If you attend a wine event, it’s helpful to remember the 4 S’s: Swirl, Sniff, Sip, Spit.
You’ll be able to sample many more wines if you don’t swallow everything given to you. Take frequent breaks, and nibble on some cheese or crackers to cleanse your palate. And most important, don’t rinse out your tasting glass with water, it can affect the aromas (chlorine and minerals in the water), and dilute the wine poured after the rinse. It’s better when switching from red to white, to rinse with a small amount of the next wine to be sampled.
Now, go out and start tasting wine at every opportunity, because practice allows you to perfect your technique, and sharpen your senses. The more you critically evaluate wine, the more you will enjoy it, and learn what you like best. Cheers!