Follow yours. No matter how dumb you feel, if a wine smells clean, fresh, and ripe to you, get out of the embarrassing tasting spotlight and motion for the waiter to pour. Only cigar smokers swish and contemplate the "legs" of a wine. The "nose" should also be faithful to the grape’s variety, which is something you have to learn over time.
Despite all the faux connoisseurs waxing poetic about a Chardonnay’s "complex oakiness," the presence of oak is usually a negative attribute. Many delicious wines are appropriately aged in oak barrels, a process that enhances a wine’s body and viscosity. Many domestic whites under $15 are not just aged in oak but also oak-fermented--that is, artificially sweetened with oak chips, powders, and essences. The process disguises the natural flavor of the grape varietal, with what is all too often the rough-hewn sweetness of say…”burnt caramel popcorn”.
That just right balance of sugar and acidity is what makes good flavor; high acidity creates desirable juiciness. Any bottle worth a damn should be ripe, juicy, and make you squint a bit. Just think of a crisp apple or a peach and how they make your mouth water.
Dry is not necessarily better than sweet. When someone asks for a dry white, they are basically admitting that they don’t know anything about wine. Some of the finest whites are often the fruitiest.
Defining as how the wine feels in your mouth, body is largely determined by extract, weight, alcohol, and tannin. Extract is simply the pure fruit concentrate that remains after you remove a wine grape’s water. Alcohol levels influence the weight of the wine: The higher the alcohol content, the richer the wine feels in the mouth. But unless you have sufficient extract, high alcohol levels are likely to kill the flavor of the wine. If you can smell the alcohol, there’s too much of it. Tannins are the astringent compounds in the skins, seeds, and stems of grapes that are responsible for the drying sensation of your gums and teeth. Tannic wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and many Bordeauxs, which mellow with age, are most enjoyable with the fatty foods and red meats that can handle their tannic grit.
Flavor should linger about 10 to 20 seconds in your mouth after you have swallowed.
Remember, red wine is not necessarily more sophisticated than white, and not necessarily the only choice with meat. In fact, because whites are generally lighter in weight than reds, they lend themselves more easily to a wider range of foods. While there are many a number of great sipping wines, light- to medium-bodied wines that are high in acidity and sugar and low in alcohol tend to be the most flexible and complementary to our lighter, more dynamic diets. Food-friendly whites include Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc; the best choices among the reds are Cabernet Franc, Barbera, Gamay, Pinot Noir.
Regional wine qualities tend to reflect the specifics of regional cuisines. So picking a region to tour often means choosing what kind of food you want with your wine.