"What should I look for?"
was the question posed.

It's really not what you should look for, rather how you should look. A teacher once told me that the proper way to teach someone about a moonrise is not to say, "sit here and you will see the full moon suddenly break over that hillside." He said that the proper way to teach was to say, "this is a good place to sit; be patient; and soon something worthy of your attention will happen." Therefore, with wine I am not going to tell you what to see. You do, however, need the right vessel to contain the wine. Choose a clear glass. For white wine, a narrower glass is usually used; for red wine, deeper, more bulbous glasses are used. We will soon see why. Riedel makes some of the best glasses; Schott crystal is cheaper and can be excellent. My sister-in-law once bought some fancy Mikasa glasses with twisty stems, some ridges in the bowl and a pink tint. She asked me what I thought; and I told her. She was not pleased with me (again). This type of tinted glass might make a fine water goblet, but it should not be used for wine. Wine should not be scrutinized through rose-colored glasses. After you have a decent, clear glass, then gently put some wine in it. Not too much. Just enough. Perhaps about a quarter or a third of a glass. Leave enough room for the swish factor. Swirl some of the wine around the glass. This will air the wine out, get some of the alcohol off of it and bring it in touch with oxygen. Here, the larger glass is better for red wines that require more room to breathe. Bringing the wine to life, from the confines of the bottle (its cell) to the expanse of this big world, frees more of its subtle flavors. Some people look for the so-called legs of the wine, the little rivulets that slide down the side of the glass. I am not a leg man. These legs are an indication of the amount of alcohol in the wine — big deal. Now, after swirling, hold the glass away against a light-colored surface and LOOK. You might ask yourself: How deep are the colors? How does the wine catch the light? This part of the process is kind of like looking at a gemstone. Just appreciate and compare. Will this look be an indication of the overall quality? (Bear in mind that sometimes you can be fooled by unfiltered wines that may appear a bit cloudy but bowl you over with tons of flavors.) Now we are ready for a tasting....

September 1999