There are five things you should do with your wine: look at it, swirl it (to release the aromas), smell it, take a sip, and finally savor the sip you just took and drink it. This the first step to looking like an expert.
Make sure you hold the wine glass at the stem, and not the ball of the glass. This keeps the wine at the correct temperature and prevents it from being warmed by your hand.
If you taste a wine and it makes you pucker, you’re tasting an acidic wine. Acidic wines, like Riesling, usually come from cooler climates.
Dry and sweet are two terms used to describe opposite tastes. In the wine world, dry simply means the absence of sugar (or to be exact, less than 2 grams of sugar per liter of wine). If you’re not sure whether your wine is dry, taste the wine while pinching your nose. If you taste sweetness, it means sugar is present. If not, it’s a dry wine.
To sound like an expert there are a few terms you should know. Sommelier (pronounced suh-muhl-YAY) is the wine guy. He/she is the one that knows all about it and who helps to pick out a wine for you. If you have any questions, he/she is the one to ask!
Another term you will often hear is tannin. Tannins are chemical compounds found in the skins and seeds of grapes. Red wines are usually more tannic, because they have longer contact with grape skins and seeds. Tannic wines are excellent with meals, because they cut through the fattiness of rich foods.
When wine experts talk about body, they are referring to the feeling of the wine in your mouth. Does it feel soft, rich, and flavorful? Then it’s a full-bodied wine (like Cabernet Sauvignon or Port). On the other hand, light-bodied wines are crisp and more acidic. These wines are more refreshing and are better suited for summer.
If the wine is crisp: mention how refreshing it is, and that it will be great to enjoy on a hot day. “This wine is so crisp and refreshing… it will be lovely for a hot day”.
If a wine simply tastes great, but you don’t know how to describe it, say how well-balanced the wine is and that the acidity, fruitiness, and tannins are all singing together. You can also mention that the wine is complex and that there are many flavors and aromas present.
If you find that the wine has an oak flavor, mention it, and also say how much you enjoy the “oakiness” of wine stored in barrels.
If you don’t enjoy a certain wine, don’t be afraid to say so! Say that the wine tastes simple, or that it lacks complexity, aroma, or flavor.
Finally, if you’re really stumped for words, remember to mention words like intense, complex (either complex or not), balanced (is it very well balanced, or could it be better?), and then finally mention the finish (how long it stays on your palate: is it long or short?).