See, Smell, Taste: How to Sample Wine

"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" (search) food and wine connoisseur Ted Allen (search) is the "wine concierge" for the new Web site Discover Wine!

Below are his tips from the site on how to hold a wine tasting:


To experience a wine's full breadth, you need to start by drinking in its appearance — its clarity and color. Begin by examining your filled glass against a white or neutral backdrop, preferably a well-lit room. It should be clear, not hazy, and the color should be rich and full.

White wines may appear light green, straw yellow or even gold. Red wines can range from purple to ruby to dark rose. As reds age, however, they lose some of their color, taking on duller tones like amber. Blush wines, like dry rosés, are so-called because of their pinkish hues.


The nasal passages connect the nose directly to your mouth — meaning that smells stimulate the palate just as tastes do. Give your glass a gentle swirl. Draw your nose in close, inhale deeply and try to identify the first scent you detect. Freshly cut grass? Cigar smoke? Berries? Wood? Conjuring these associations is fun, and you'll find you remember better which wines you enjoyed and why.


Finally, it's time! Take a small sip and hold it in your mouth. Different areas of the tongue detect salt, bitterness and sweetness, so work your mouthful around 'til it's fully coated, making note of the wine's texture, body and weight — its "mouth-feel."

A wine is considered "balanced" when its components (tannin levels, acidity, sweetness and such) work in harmony. Tannins (any of a group of astringent substances found in the seeds, skins, and stems of grapes, as well as in oak barrels, particularly new ones) should have an agreeable astringency (experienced as that "pucker" sensation) and acidity should be pleasant, but not overwhelming.

Finally, assess the wine's "finish" — the taste left in your mouth after you've swallowed. What's it like? How long does it last? Ripe, balanced flavors and a lingering finish are the signs of a quality wine.