Tasting wine sounds pretty simple doesn't it? Not if you're going to maximize your enjoyment. For that there is a process.

Tasting wine sounds pretty simple doesn't it? Not if you're going to maximize your enjoyment. For that there is a process.
Oh, I know. It all sounds so pretentious. Holding the glass just so, swirling it around and observing the color variances can seem a little snobbish. But if you're really into wine, and want to get past the "slug it back and watch what happens" stage, there are a few simple tricks to learn.
We begin with the wine glass itself. The glass can have a huge effect on the flavor or the wine. A typical glass has three components the bowl, stem and base (or the foot).
A good everyday wine glass should hold about 18 to 20 ounces or more, large enough that a pour of 5 or 6 ounces is in no jeopardy of spilling out during the swirl. Non-leaded crystal is best, as thin as practicable with a pear shape (larger at the bottom and more narrow at the top).
If you have some beautiful Waterford glasses leftover from your wedding you may want to make sure that they conform to the above size and shape. Otherwise, they are not going to work well for wine tasting (but they sure are pretty, huh?).A company call Riedel (rhymes with needle) makes the state of the art but there are many options now that cost a good deal less.
There is a new wave of wine glasses that are called tumblers because they have no stem. These stemless glasses are typically dishwasher safe for convenience, and usually work just as well if the aforementioned guidelines pertaining to size, shape and materials are followed.
The proper method of holding the glass is by the stem or the base, so as not to alter the temperature of the wine. People generally underestimate the importance of temperature when serving wine and, as a result rarely enjoy the wines intended array of flavors.
Reds are usually served too warm, and whites too cold. The old adage about serving red wine at "room temperature" was coined at a time before modern ventilation systems, so the typical room temperature then was about 65 to 68 degrees. So, most reds should be served at about 66 degrees to preserve their physical integrity. It should be cool to the lips.
On the other hand, we generally serve white wines directly from our refrigerator with an ambient temperature of about 47 degrees about 10 degrees colder than is appropriate. When served that cold, the molecules of the wine are restricted, resulting in their inability to release the most exciting and delicate flavors. Wonder why your Chardonnay tastes bitter and tart?
Be patient and let the stuff warm up a bit.
The best and easiest way to assure your wine is served at the proper temperature is to follow the old "15 minute rule." Put your whites in the fridge for an hour or so, and then take them out 15 minutes before serving. That will allow them to warm up to the proper temperature. Your reds should be placed into your refrigerator 15 minutes before serving to allow them to cool down before pouring the first glass.
OK, now we're ready to pour the wine into the glass. I recommend that you pour carefully down the side of the glass, allowing the wine to bubble and aerate a little.
By the way, another reason to use crystal is due to its texture. Although crystal appears to look like glass to the naked eye, the fact is that if you look under a microscope you'll find that glass is smooth (no surprise) but crystal is actually jagged on its edges. These jagged edges help to rip the wine open and fill it with air, allowing it to evolve quicker.
Fill the glass no more than one third. Now, pick the glass up by the stem and hold it up against something white. The white will allow you to view the wide array of beautiful colors that the wine possesses (they don't call them "white tablecloth restaurants" for nothing). If a red wine offers shades of blue in its red spectrum that usually means that the wine is young, whereas if the red color is more brownish the wine may be older or have spent more time in wood. It could also mean that the wine has more tannins because tannins are orange in color. See? Interesting.
Put the glass on a table or sturdy fixture. Hold it by the stem and swirl the wine around in the glass by drawing tiny imaginary circles on the table. Most of what we think we perceive as flavor is actually the product of the olfactory gland in our nose. If you catch cold and your breathing is restricted your food loses flavor doesn't it?That's because the old nose isn't working at 100 percent. By swirling the wine in the glass, you introduce additional air into the wine and coat the inside of the glass with wine, thus multiplying the amount of wine that comes in contact with air. The more contact the more scent, the more scent the more flavor.
Put the theory to the test.Pick up the glass keeping it very still. Take a big, deep whiff of the aroma. Got it? Now place it back on the table and swirl the wine around aggressively. Don't be afraid, the faster the better. Inertia will keep the liquid in the glass. Pick up the glass and take another deep whiff. Can you tell the difference? The bouquet is usually much more profound the second time.
Alright, we're ready for the big moment. While holding the glass by the stem, take a small sample of the wine and let it remain on your palate for a moment or two, so as to allow the flavors to evolve, and your taste buds to perceive them.
Contrary to popular belief, your taste buds are not located exclusively in the center of your tongue, but rather in a diverse number of areas. Letting the wine remain on your palate gives all of your sensing monitors a chance to perceive the flavors.
Well-made wine is not like soda or simple sweet drinks. It is much more complex and will provide you with many layers of flavor, as well as an abundance of different flavors to enjoy. Taste the fruit, the minerality, the herbs and spices offered. All of this effort will be worth the trouble by providing a payoff of spectacular enjoyment.
So there you have it, the ABCs of tasting wine. Put the process to the test and allow it to make take your enjoyment of wine to the next level. Bob Monica is general managerof the Conference Center at NorthPointe and former owner of the Wine Shoppe Bistro in Dublin.