Can Can's Bob Talcott is the closest thing Richmond's got to a Master Sommelier. He is a final exam candidate, meaning he has completed three of four tests in a program that only 197 worldwide have finished. If you are presented with a new wine, pour a glass and follow Talcott's "S" guide. "Novices often struggle for words about wine; the eight steps gives them a basis," Talcott says.
Look for defects such as cloudiness. You want it to be clear and bright.
The goal here is to aerate the wine to increase the aromas. Simple as that.
Stick your nose in the glass, take one big sniff and let your brain speak to you. What scents are you picking up? Fruits, flowers, earth, wood?
But don't swallow yet. See next step.
With that sip in your mouth, draw some more oxygen into your mouth. You are just aerating the wine again, increasing the aromas. Do you notice any changes in intensity?
Get that sip all over your tongue, on the inside of your cheeks and on your gums. There are taste buds everywhere. You are assessing the sweet, sour and bitter aspects of the wine.
Seems as obvious as sip, but there are more nerves at the top of your esophagus to reach. It's another opportunity to assess alcoholic and tannic components.
Aromas linger after you swallow because the scents go back up your retro-nasal passage. The longer the wine's finish (the longer you are getting the aromas), usually the higher quality and more balanced it is.