Tasting wine can be broken down into five basic steps, called "The Five S's":
1. Sight - Hold your glass at eye level against a white background and take a look at the wine itself. Its color can indicate how old the wine is, how the wine was stored, and grape variety. Wine experts study for years to perceive and identify these subtle differences, so for now, just rest assured that they are there!
2. Swirl - Gently swirling the wine in the glass introduces oxygen, allowing the wine to release more of its bouquet and aroma.
3. Smell - Since smell is a major part of taste, this is a key step. Notice your first impressions. Does it smell fresh? Fruity? Sour? Is it intense? Are you reminded of any other smells? There's no right answer here! It's all about your personal tastes and preferences. Swirl and repeat this step a few times and you'll find you notice different scents each time.
4. Sip - Finally! Yes, go ahead and take a sip, but don't swallow it just yet! Let the wine roll around your mouth so it touches each of the flavor areas on your tongue. As you do so, notice its sweetness, acidity, tannins, bitterness, and fruit flavors. Notice where on your tongue you feel each sensation and what memories or associations the flavors trigger. Again, there's no right answer here!
5. Savor - Finally, take a moment to sit back, repeat a step or two, and think about your overall impression of the wine. Did you like it? Would you drink it by itself or with food? How was the balance of aromas, flavors, and textures? Would you choose this wine again?
Much of wine-tasting is really about taking the time to notice and really think about the wine. Obviously, this is a very cursory introduction, but thinking about each of these steps the next time you have a glass of wine will help you start cataloging your tasting experiences. You'll be surprised how quickly you start to notice little differences and similarities in the wine you drink!