Wine is said to have “legs” when the wine “clings” to the glass as it “trickles” down the inside.
(Simon, p. 14) The viscosity that permits the wine to do this is an indication of alcohol content or sweetness and suggests that it may be a full-bodied wine, but legs are only one element of good quality.
Wine, when ready to drink, will be clear. The color and clarity of wine, which is more readily seen with a white background of some kind, can indicate the kind of grape used in the wine and the wine’s age. White wines, ranging from clear to yellow, will tend to gain color as they age, turning more yellow and even brown. Ice wines with bortrytis (late season natural mold on grapes), which concentrates both flavor and color, will be a deep yellow. The color of red wines will vary depending on the grape, too, from dark red/purple to lighter shades. They tend to lose color as they age, turning more orange/brown.
Work the wine. Although it may look a bit pretentious, gently swirling the wine in the glass increases the surface exposed to the air. The wine evolves and you can learn a lot for future reference if you give it a chance.
Decanting helps open up many wines. Some wines can change dramatically with aeration. In the past, when larger amounts of sulfur were used in wine production some wines had strong sulfur aromas that could be alleviated with decanting. However, certain flaws cannot be "aired out of" the wine. If the wine is truly hopeless, just pour it out!
For more graphic information and a "how to" example, click here
When smelling wine, you should remember that unlike other mammals, our smell receptors are located far up in the nose – just under the front part of the brain, between your eyes. To really smell things, you need to get the vapors up there.
One of the things that makes wine a beautiful thing, is that with the right crafting and a little luck, the wine you drink will present some amazing and wonderful aromas. If you just give it a chance, you too will experience the different aromas in various wines.
Some people like to take a few successive sniffs or snorts and others will deeply inhale. In either case, most people prefer to unabashedly stick their nose deep into the glass. There is nothing wrong or gauche about that. Wine lore has it that European sommeliers were taught to smell with one nostril. We propose that you try to see what you smell in the wine at different distances. Just be careful not to snort the wine. If you get overwhelmed and it all smells the same, try sniffing some light or medium roasted coffee beans to clear your nose. Remember that when the grapes used for wines are picked too ripe, the wines will loose distinction.
Additionally, some people are better able to discern more scents than others. This is a matter of experience but also a brain thing rather than a nose thing: your past experiences with smells and aromas, your ability to store that smell memory and then connect the memory with the smell when you encounter it is very much like learning a foreign language. (You can learn more about the physiology of smell and taste as well as how to train your senses here) Not everyone grew up eating freshly picked black currants, gooseberries or kumquats. Not all of us have come across a lychee nut or carambola at their local grocery store. But where there is a will there is a way. You can usually track these things down in specialty stores and educate your nose.... or brain. Just make a list of aromas described in a review and head out to the store.
Because smell is such an important aspect of wine tasting, courteous tasters try not to interfere with other tasters' ability to smell. This means:
Smoking (anything) is a complete no-no at any wine tasting.
Using any scent (perfume, after-shave lotion, scented hair spray, and so on) is undesirable. These foreign odors can really interfere with your fellow tasters' ability to detect the wine's aroma.
For more graphic information and a "how to" example, click here for the How To video