There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to deciding what you sense when you taste wine.

Your own impressions mean more than what others get from it. After examining the appearance of the wine – observing clarity and color – the next step is smelling and tasting the wine.

The wine’s aroma provides a hint of the wine’s character; however, there are almost always unexpected impressions that come after that first sip is taken.

With no more than one-third of a clear, clean wineglass filled with wine, grab the stem of the glass with the base still flat on the table and swirl it in small circles.

The purpose of this is to aerate the wine, letting oxygen mix with it and bring forward its natural aromas and flavors. Then take one to three short sniffs with your nose inside the glass. Pull away from the glass and think about your immediate impressions of what you just smelled.

Ask yourself first whether the wine smelled "clean." By this I mean that it has no obvious faults. If you drink wine on a regular basis, a bad wine with aromas that are "off" will stick out immediately.

If nothing seems out of the ordinary, the next question to consider is whether the wine aroma is typical of its grape varietal.

In other words, if you smell a Pinot Noir, does it have the familiar aromas of cherry and herbs that are normally associated with Pinot Noir? If you are not familiar with the typical "nose" characteristics of the grape, simply concentrate on what comes to mind upon the first few sniffs.

Sip the wine. Some people taste by swishing the wine around in their mouth, like mouthwash, to get a full impact on the palate.

Others suck in some air with wine, like slurping, in order to mix more oxygen with wine.

Whatever method you choose, the important thing is to concentrate on your first impressions of flavor and texture. Think in broad terms first, then narrow down your impressions.

Ask yourself, "is the wine light, medium, or full body?" Is it filled with bold fruit flavors or is the fruitiness more subtle? Is it complex with a multitude of flavors, or is it simple, easy to drink? Is it sweet or dry? Crisp or mellow? Does it have a good balance of impressions or is one component dominant? Does it leave you wanting more?

Take another sip and narrow down your impressions a little further. Are the fruit flavors light, like cherry, or more concentrated with dark fruits like black cherry?

Are there additional impressions of texture from tannin, which gives red wine its drying, mouth-puckering effect?

Does the wine have flavors imparted by oak barrels, sometimes referred to as a vanilla-like flavor?

After your final sip, think about the wine’s "finish." This refers to the lingering flavors, or lack of that remains after the wine leaves the mouth.

The best wines in the world often possess a "long" finish; a rich, elegant residue that leaves you wanting more.

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