6. Check the cork
If you order the wine, the waiter/waitress is going to bring you the tasting so be prepared. This is easier than most people make it out to be. Proper tasting can be done three simple steps.
First, examine the cork.
The cork can tell you 90% of what you need to know. Unless you really, really know wine, DO NOT sniff the cork. Very few people have the ability to tell if a wine has gone bad by sniffing the cork. Instead, a physical examination of the cork shows you know more about and will keep you out of trouble.
The cork should be firm, but not brittle on the end that was pointing up. The end that is stained with wine should be soft enough to flex when you squeeze it and should be damp with wine. Examine the sides of the cork for red streaks or creases that run the length of the cork. Remember, if wine can get out, then air can get in and the win is bad.
If you find a cork with a streak from end to end, you won’t even need to taste the wine. The bottle is spoiled. Simply, and discretely, show it to the waiter and request another bottle.
Second, swirl the glass.
Leave the glass on the table and swirl it by moving the base of the glass around in small tight circles. If you pick it and swirl it, you may accidently sling some on yourself or others. It happens.
Third, smell and taste.
If you smell or taste anything metallic, the wine is starting to go bad and you should send it back. If you think you don’t like the wine, or you think it tastes funny. Ask the waiter or sommelier for help. Do not be afraid or intimidated about sending back a bottle of wine. Cork is a natural product and it is estimated that .5% of all natural corks go bad. Even the new synthetic (plastic) corks can fail (usually from defective insertion). It happens more than you think. You can simply say, “I’m sorry, but I this isn’t what I expected.”
If you like the taste, set the stage for your guests, but do not oversell it. Make a comment such as “my, I think everyone will enjoy this (and smile).” The power of suggestion is amazing when it comes to wine.
After a few minutes, discuss with your guests if they are enjoying the wine. You will get suggestions or hints about whether to stay with your choice or select something else for the next bottle.