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Wine tasting is no more than taking a few moments to pause before drinking, and swallowing a glass of wine. A minute spent on considering the wine's smell, taste and texture is one of the most useful learning aids to wine appreciation. Tasting consists of three basic steps:

Look - examine the wine in the glass against a white background. The colour of a wine can give clues to its age, the grape from which it is made, even where it is from. But all that needs a lot of experience and knoweldge. For now, simply check that it is clear and bright.

Smell - known as the "nose" of the wine, the aromas that emerge form the glass if swirled gently can tell you a lot about it: perhaps reminding you of certain fruits, or aromas like nuts, vegetables, herbs, or even meat. Concentrate on your very first sniff - when the receptors in your nose are sharpest - and think about what you can smell.

Taste - take a sip of the wine and hold it in your mouth. Swirl it around a bit. This is a chance to check if any aromas you noticed on the nose follow through as flavours on the palate. Now you can also assess the texture - is it thin like water, or thicker and oilier? You can check for tannins - dry, mouth-puckering flavours - and acidity. You can also check the length of the wine: how long its flavour lingers on the palate.


  Tasting wine from suitable glassware can make a huge difference. There are specialist companies such as Riedel of Austria who manufacture an enormous range of expensive and beautiful glasses for enjoying specific wines, but the standard tasting glass serves well for the purpose of assessing any wine. All good wine tasting glasses have the same basic properties:

1. The glass should taper towards the top to trap aromas
2. The bowl should be large enough to allow you to swirl
3. The glass must have a stem so your hand does not heat the wine
4. The glass should be plain to see the colour of the wine.

As long as your glassware follows these basic rules, it should be ideal for tasting. Be careful to rinse your glasses carefully after washing, as traces of detergent can spoil your next tasting.