The process for wine tasting and evaluation is precisely the same on either side of the experience brackets - both novice taster and expert alike, so you should have the confidence that your opinion holds the same validity and merit as the experts. To review, we have examined the color, evaluated the aroma, tasted the wine and held it for 15 seconds or more at least twice, and mulled over the length of the finish. Now we are ready to ask ourselves a few questions:
A few common descriptive phrases used by wine enthusiasts to describe wine styles are “fruit-forward,” “New World” and “Old World.” The term fruit-forward is used to describe wines that are easy to drink, with soft tannins and ripe fruit flavors. You may have heard people talk about Old World and New World wines and wondered what they mean. Well, Old World is a term applied to the wine produced from Western European countries such as France, Italy and Germany. Here, winemaking is more of an art form and the resulting wine traditionally needs time to develop in the bottle and also needs to be drunk with food.
The New World refers to countries such as Australia and Chile that have challenged the traditional winemaking methods employed by the Old World, and produce wines which typically have up-front ripe and fruity flavors and which can be enjoyed immediately, either on their own or with food. These countries promote the fruitiness of their wine by picking the grapes at greater ripeness, keeping the grapes and grape must chilled and by using state of the art technology during fermentation and bottling. Many producers are even pushing the limits of grape ripeness on the vine, waiting to pick them until they reach their peak physiological maturity and sugar levels. The resulting wines are considerably more concentrated than their earlier picked brethren; with deep intense color and flavors. The alcohol levels of these wines are higher as well, contributing to an impression of weight and sweetness in the wine. This style of wine has proven popular; with Shiraz and Zinfandel sales increasing exponentially each year.
So, if you are used to drinking the ripe and fruity tasting wines of the New World then drinking traditional French wines may cause a shock to your taste buds as they can seem relatively lighter and less fruity, especially if you drink them without food.
There is a heavy emphasis placed on your own personal taste when evaluating wines. The real question of a wine's quality is if you liked it, not a reviewer, television host, magazine, your best friend or the sommelier at the fancy restaurant. Since taste is generally a subjective matter and no two people have the exact same measure of sensory perception, your taste, preferences and opinions hold the same validity as anyone else's. The easiest path to gaining confidence with your tasting abilities is to taste, taste and taste again, coupled with thinking about the aspects of the wine, writing down your opinions and openly sharing them with others to get their thoughts on the wine, recognizing that there are no wrong answers. All it takes is a bottle of wine, a glass, your senses and an open mind.