Proper tasting technique will enhance your wine experience.
Credit: Becky Luigart-Stayner

A good wine can taste either fairly bland or pretty dramaticdepending on the technique you use to taste it. There is a correctway to taste wine, and practicing it can increase the enjoymentderived from every glass you drink.

It starts with smell. As we all know from having a cold, much ofwhat we call taste is really smell. So if you want to fully taste awine, you can't skip the smelling part. In fact, taking many quicksniffs (instead of one long inhale) works best. While certainaromas are detected via the nerve cells, current taste researchsuggests that some aromas are only registered through thepassageway at the back of the throat. In order to pick up on thesearomas, you have to hold the wine in your mouth for a few secondsand slosh it around a bit.

Holding the wine for a second or two rather than swallowing itquickly has another advantage in relation to your taste buds. Tastebuds are sensory cells within onion-shaped structures that existall over your mouth and throat, not just on your tongue. It takestime for flavor molecules to penetrate through the opening in thetop of the structure (called the taste pore) and register on your"buds" (which is why a child who is about to swallow a bad-tastingmedicine is often told to swallow fast). Therefore, holding thewine allows you to get the full impact of the wine's flavor.

Also, by briefly holding the wine in your mouth and thenswallowing, you'll be able to notice how the wine "finishes." Awine's finish is the flavor that lingers on your palate afteryou've swallowed. In general, great wines always have beautiful,long finishes-another aspect of the wine to enjoy.

Finally, a practical tip to accentuate flavor: Be sure to uselarge glasses with generous-sized bowls for both white and redwines. Such glasses give you room to swirl the wine vigorously. Byaerating the wine, you help release its aromas (and hence itsflavors). All wines benefit from aerating.

If you're skeptical about all this, conduct an experiment. Tastea wine without following any of the tips I've recommended; then trythe suggestions above. You'll be amazed just how much more flavorawaits in every wineglass.

Cooking Light wine expert Karen MacNeil is chair of the wine programs at theCulinary Institute of America in California's Napa Valley. Wineprices may vary.