Learn to use your senses. One of the best ways to learn about wine is by educating yourself to taste various scents and flavors. Create an inventory of the most important descriptions of wine (based upon the reference books suggested below) and then train yourself to pay at these. It is possible to begin by chewing a freshly picked strawberry and then comparing the taste to the flavor of the strawberry jam you’ve eaten. Suck in a lemon and sniff freshly cracked black pepper, or dip your tongue into a sprinkling of cinnamon. You’ll soon be aware of the awe-inspiring senses that surround us. You’ll likely begin getting greater pleasure from the enchanting scent of a hedgerow in spring, the vibrant lushness of a freshly mown lawn, or the deep dark fragrance of new leather shoes. And you might even find yourself eating better too.
Notice what you notice when you drink the wine. The next step is to observe certain aromas and flavors in the wines you drink and note fundamental elements like sweetness, acidity, alcohol, and tannin. Do you notice that your mouth is swollen after you have a bite? It’s because of the edge of the wine. Different grapes come with varying levels of acidity. So, take note of the differences in the reaction you get from an acidic Sauvignon Blanc, for instance, or Gewurztraminer with a lower edge. There’s also tannin, which is typically present in red wines. Tannin causes a dry sensation inside your mouth, similar to a long-stewed cup of tea. Again, different varieties of grapes differ in their levels of tannin. So be sure to contrast how you react to tannins in the soft and silky Pinot Noir with your reaction to the chalky, firmer tannins in the Cabernet Sauvignon.
In most cases, you won’t feel the alcohol’s taste in the least unless the wine isn’t balanced, and, in that case, it could cause a warming (or maybe even a burning) sensation to your taste. In terms of sweetness, many do not like sweet wines. However, the most balanced wines combine acidity and sugar so the final product does not feel cloying. Please note what you’re tasting, as it will allow you to identify your preferences and dislikes.
One thing you’ll likely notice quickly is that Old World wines tend to contain more tannin and acidity than those of their New World equivalents, which are usually more fruity. At first, you may feel that the stern Old World wines are less appealing, but when you try them with food, you’ll see that the structure is sound. The acidity will cut through the creamy flavor of sauces, and tannins aid in breakdown the protein content of rich meats.
The more you try and taste, the more you build an image of the wines you enjoy and those you do not. Are you a fan of the slick and savage nature of the Italian Soave, the vinous equivalent of a freshly-starched shirt? Do you prefer the prickly extravagantness of the luxury of a Californian Chardonnay? It will be apparent that aging bottle of wine inside oak barrels adds distinct flavors to the wines. You may crave the vanilla and coconut flavors American oak gives traditional Riojas or discover a preference for the subtle aromas of toast and smoke that French oak, which is layered to create a sophisticated Bordeaux.
You can try the exact grape varieties in several wine varieties. One instrumental test is to taste three or two wines with a similar grape variety simultaneously. Consider, for example, the three Sauvignon blanc varieties: ones from Sancerre or Pouilly Fume in the Loire and another made from New Zealand or Chile, and a white oaked from Bordeaux (which could contain some Semillon, which is a different grape variety that is in the blend but it’s not a matter of concern). It will be apparent how this Loire version is a little less mature in comparison to a New World take on the wine, with subtle flavors of nettles and citrus, contrasting the more vibrant, tropical flavors of the third wine. The oaked wine has more body and feel than the other. Beyond these distinctions, there should also be some common ground for aromatic and structural elements. It is possible to conduct the same test using a variety of red wines derived from the same grape, namely one of which is a Cabernet Sauvignon, for instance, or a Shiraz/Syrah (which is the same grape but has two distinct names, based on where it was cultivated).