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Describing a wine surrounds three basic areas; appearance, aroma and flavor. Lets build upon these three areas so you can standout at your next gathering.
Appearance (Visual) - The appearance of a wine is the first thing you see after pouring a glass. First and foremost, you want to know if the wine is red or white, or rosé. Pay attention to the clarity, is it transparent and clean or is there any haze or particulate matter in the wine. Of note, the "legs" of a wine are not necessarily associated with quality, they are often just a reflection of the amount of alcohol, residual sugar and overall viscosity of the wine.
Nose (Aroma) - The nose of a wine can be one of the most enticing wine characteristics. Even before putting the glass to your lips you can be swept away by a beautiful bouquet of aromas that entice you to take a sip. Swirl the wine gently in the glass to aerate it and volatilize the aromatic compounds, making it easier to smell. Then put your nose deep in the glass and take a deep sniff. Pay attention both to the intensity of the aroma as well as its particular components. Try to describe what you smell in terms of other smells you know. Is it fruity? If so, what types of fruits, melons, apple, pear, red fruits like strawberry and raspberry or darker fruits like black currant and blackberry. Are there other non-fruit scents like spices, pepper, earth, and stones (often described as minerals)? Do you detect any wood or toasty aromas from wood aging? Are there any off aromas that are musty, moldy or otherwise off-putting? A great wine has a beautiful blend of seductive aromas that all balance together nicely, without any strange aromas that distract you.
Mouth (Flavor) - Finally, the wine characteristic that culminates the wine tasting experience, the climax and finish all wrapped into one, the mouth. After the nose has enticed you, it is the mouth that should realize the promise of that nose. For starters, pay attention to how the wine hits your palate, the first impression. Is it powerful or intense? Or is it slow to build or even flabby and lacking spirit? Next, pay attention to the specific wine characteristics, the flavors you taste. Are they in line with what you detected in the nose or different? Again, how would you describe them? Are they simple or is it a complex myriad of different flavors? Now pay attention to the feel and texture of the wine in your mouth, the "mouthfeel" as we call it. Is it rough and angular or smooth and seductive? Silky or velvety? Chewy or light and ethereal? Finally, the finish, the aftertaste of the wine that lingers in your mouth after you swallow, is the final act of the wine. Does it linger beautifully on your palate, enticing you to take another sip or does it cut off short, or even worse does it leave a strange, bitter or otherwise unsavory flavor in your mouth?