When you make wine, especially homemade wine, recognize that tasting it should be no different than tasting a fine Bordeaux or an expensive Napa Valley Chardonnay. It takes time and consideration to appreciate wine and when making homemade wine, you can use this time to recognize areas where the wine can be improved.
Firstly, it is important to learn how to properly taste homemade wine. The best way to start is by selecting a wine glass that is appropriate to the varietal (grape type). A red wine will need a larger glass with a round bowl shaped bottom. A white wine however, will need a longer and more slender glass.
Make sure not to overfill the glass, you can always add more wine! Fill the glass to where the bowl is the widest. This level is usually about two fingers deep; if you place your hand sideways against the glass, fill to where the wine reaches the first two fingers.
Now sip a small amount of homemade wine and roll it about your mouth making sure to coat all areas of your tongue. You want all the different taste buds to be engaged. You can also try aerating the wine by sucking in air through your mouth and swishing it in with the wine. You may look a little bit silly while doing this but do not be afraid, it will be worth it for the extra flavors you can taste.
The first item on the agenda is to enjoy your homemade wine. A lot of hard work went into the making of wine and you should savor the fruits of your labor. Next you can begin to isolate the specific flavors that come into your brain. You may want to have a notepad handy so that you can write down the different flavors that appear as the wine ferments.
The most common descriptive words for wine are fruits, flowers, and foodstuffs, but be sure to write down whatever you may be thinking since there are no wrong answers.
For light-bodied white wines, some flavors that are almost always present are green apple, honey, floral, rose hips, lemon, lime, orange, or citrus. Be wary of words that are too general, like sweet, or good. Try and recognize the specific flavors that can be attributed with adding a “sweet” taste to the wine.
The medium-bodied whites can have any of the flavors of a light-bodied white in addition to some red apple, peaches, pears, pineapple, and cream flavors. In oaked wines like Chardonnay, there can be a creamy, buttery, or milky flavor that comes through on the wine. This comes from the oak barrels they are aged in.
When making wine at home, the oak flavor comes from the addition of oak chips, dust, or flavor. If you prefer a lighter or heavier oak flavor, it is easy to add more or less of these to your homemade wine. Supplementary oak products can be purchased at wine making supplies stores.
The red wines move more toward red and dark fruits. Medium-bodied red wines, like Pinot Noir or Merlot, can often have flavors of plums, raspberries, cherries, and strawberries. Also in red wines, some more unconventional flavors can start to come through. Black pepper, cinnamon, spices, and chocolate can occasionally be detected.
For the darker and heavier red wines, you can taste an abundance of flavors that continue to change with time as the wine breathes. An easy way to have fun with making red wine is to pour the wine into a glass and taste it right away. Make notes and then let the wine rest in the glass for five or ten minutes and taste it again. Re-evaluate and compare your notes, many times the flavors are completely different.
In addition to all the flavors frequent in the lighter reds, a few general descriptive terms for the darker reds can be blackberry, dried fruit, tobacco, smoke and chocolate.
While tasting homemade wine may seem like a snobby thing to do, it is completely an objective practice that can be as fun as you make it. Like a game to try and find all the hidden flavors locked in the glass. Making wine at home should be something you enjoy, and maybe while tasting all of your homemade wine, you can learn a little bit more about how to make wine.