Wine tasting is not the same as drinking it. To experience the true flavor of a wine requires that you pay attention to your senses of sight, smell, touch, as well as taste.
Sight: Look at the wine — in daylight if possible. The best way is to tilt the wine in the glass and look at it against a white background. What do you see? Is the wine clear or cloudy? The color will vary according to what wine it is. Red wines vary greatly in color — a Merlot, for example will usually be an intense ruby red while a Cabernet Sauvignon will be a darker, deeper red. As red wine ages, you will see hints of reddish-brown around the edges. White wines become more golden as they age.
Smell: Through our sense of smell, wine reveals its pleasures to us. To determine the aroma, swirl the wine vigorously in the glass. As the wine coats the sides of the glass, it releases its bouquet. The aromas can be quite different depending on how far into the glass your nose goes. At the top of the glass, they are more floral and fruity; deeper in the glass, they are richer. Try to detect the full range of scents from berry to floral to spicy to woody … and so on. Consider intensity and appeal.
Touch: This does not mean you dip your finger into your wine glass! When tasting wines, the touch is the feel of the wine on your tongue. Is it soft or brisk? Does it have a refreshing zing around the edges of your tongue? Or is it flat and flabby? Tannins (used in red wines to keep them from spoiling) will feel sort of prickly on your tongue. Younger red wines are usually more tannic. The ideal touch is a mellow softness — a velvety feeling in your mouth.
Taste: This is the final step and should be taken only after you’ve used your other senses. When tasting a wine, take a small amount in your mouth, swirl it around lightly so all your taste buds are exposed; then keep it there for a brief period. Does the wine taste the same as its aroma? Is it sweet, acidic, crisp? Is it light or full-bodied? At this point you can either spit it out (especially if you’re tasting several wines) or simply drink it, but be sure to experience the aftertaste (the finish). What is the memory of the wine on your palate?