A formal guide
Keen to learn more about wine? Read our guide on how to critically assess wines.
Pour a small amount of wine into a glass, tilt the glass at an angle of 45 degrees away from you and look at it against a plain white background.
To help you identify the color, take a look at the table of wine colors, or click here to learn about wine faults and how to identify them. In addition to color, you can also assess:
Gently swirl the wine in the glass with a rhythmic circular motion of your wrist. If you aren't confident doing this, place the glass's base on a flat surface like your table and, holding near the base, move the glass in a smooth circle to swirl the wine.
Swirling wine releases the less volatile aromas, allowing you to capture the complete picture of the nose of the wine. Take another deep smell; do you perceive any new aromas?
Here is a good list of criteria to further assess the taste:
Complexity: dumb, dull, simple, straightforward, defined, layered, nuanced, complex, overwhelming
Balance: poor, unbalanced, incomplete, jagged, one-dimensional, centered, balanced, graceful, harmonious
Age: fresh, youthful, emergent, mature, advanced, declining, tired, finished, dead
If you're tasting wines with friends, you can make notes, score the wine using a 20 or 100 points scale, and compare your impressions with one another.