For anyone looking for visible ways to elevate their status, regardless of whether or not they have the education, breeding or money with which to do so, nothing will raise an average person from the status of "hoi palloi" like the world of gourmet food, and along with that, wine. People who like to think of themselves as elite foodies often have wine tastings during which several different fine wines will be tasted.
This is something that is particularly common with wine collectors. There is much ceremony surrounding formal wine tasting, and these tastings are often done away from any type of meal. The lack of food at these tastings is a deliberate effort to focus all of the attention on the wines at hand. A wine tasting will traditionally begin with the most subtle wines and work up to the most aggressive or intensely flavorful.
When one participates in formal wine tastings, the idea is not to drink the entire glass, but rather to experience all of the sensations associated with tasting the wine. The first thing the participant does is to swirl the wine around in the glass. It gives the participant a chance to see the color of the wine as it really is. White wines aren't exactly white. The more a white wine ages, the more color it will have. Conversely, the older a red wine is, the lighter it's color will be. A dark red wine is a sign that the wine is a younger wine.
EXPERIENCING THE AROMA -
Swirling the wine in the glass also releases the aroma. The taster will use one of two ways to experience the aroma: they can either bring the wine up to their nose, briefly inhale it and then thrust it away, after which they will bring it back again to inhale it once more, or they may inhale it once very deeply. It is important to take time to savor the aroma of the wine before actually tasting it.
SIPPING THE WINE -
When one finally goes to taste the wine, the first sip is a small one. The small sip is followed by a larger longer sip. The idea is to allow the flavor to touch all of the flavor centers in the mouth, and allow the wine to warm the back of the throat. Tasting wine is a thoughtful process, not intended to be something that happens quickly.
CLEANSING THE PALATE -
In between the wines, it is important to cleanse the palate so that when the next wine is tasted, there is no longer any of the previous wine's flavor or sensation. It's important not to eat any flavorful food, drink flavored water or anything else that might taint or alter the taste experience of the next wine. To clear the palate, one should eat plain white bread, or a French bread. It's important to eat the bread plain without anything on it. Plain water can also be used to help wash the bread down.
When multiple wines are tasted as part of an elegant meal, bread can be served, but the separation course might include a vegetable, a subtle salad, a clear soup, or on occasion, a scoop of a simple fruit sorbet. At any wine tasting, the experience will start with the mildest and most subtle tasting wines, and the idea is to gradually work toward the most intense, aggressive and strongly flavorful wine.
Wine tasting is a cultural, culinary and aesthetic experience. It is important to take in the entire experience because it will provides one with the knowledge they will need when they go looking for a wine to purchase. It should be a pleasant experience, and one that one would want to participate in again.