Ten practical tips (the bare minimum) for wine evaluations:
- Make sure the wine is at the correct temperature.
- Evaluate the wines "blind". Put them in numbered glasses without revealing brand.
- Drink the wine out of the correct glass - you don't have to go to extremes with this, but a glass that capture volatiles and allows you to smell them is essential.
- Use spit cups or some alternate form of spitting arrangement if the spit cup doesn't work with your group. If you're drinking the wine, your ability to discriminate goes down the tubes after a small amount of alcohol is ingested and hits the brain.
- Eat an unsalted cracker between samples and rinse with water.
- Don't do more than 5 at a time, even if you're spitting out. You can do 5, take a break and go back at it after 1/2 hour rest. Take three small sniffs of the wine and get an impression. Then turn away and take a breath of fresh air to revitalize the sense of smell.
- Evaluate one varietal at a time for maximum learning and enjoyment.
- Understand the basic principles of sensory evaluation: taste versus flavor, aspects of aroma - aroma by nose or retronasal aromas.
- Use a tasting guide: the wine wheel from Davis or any other sensible guide to flavor notes.
- Write down what you smell in the order you smell it; same for taste.
Wine tastings are a misnomer - there are only 5 basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami but there are thousands of aromas. "Wine evaluation" is a more descriptive term.