Just got these questions in from wino rhino reader 3dees, so I decided it would be fun to answer them right here:
1. What's the halo? The stain/mark left by the wine? - Excellent question! Actually, the halo is going to be the "ring" of wine that's touching the wine glass. If you look down at a glass with wine inside of it, it's in the shape of a circle, yes? Well, the rim of that circle, where the wine and the glass touch, is what's called the halo. Think of an angel's halo (hallelujah and all that!). The halo really helps you define the body and density of the wine before you even put it to your lips. It's fascinating! The lighter the halo, the lighter you can expect the wine to be.
Oh, and to answer your other question, the stain/mark left by the wine, running down the glass? Those are called "legs". They also help to determine the texture and body of the wine. The heavier the legs, the stronger the wine.
2. How can you tell that all those flavors are in there i.e. plum, blackberry and vanilla? - Let me start by saying that the flavors detected in wine are, above all, completely subjective. It's what YOU think is in the wine, what YOU think the wine tastes like. There's no all-powerful expert that determines what every wine is supposed to taste like. I mean, if you get sawdust in a wine, then there's sawdust (flavor) in the wine! I mean, I tasted a wine today (look for the review later on) that had a hint of cotton candy! Doesn't mean anybody else is going to taste that, but it's what I got out of it. What you need to do is taste and taste and taste ... and know that nothing you say is going to be wrong!
Granted, there are some people with more sensitive palates than others. There are some things you can do to assist the strength and sensitivity of your palate so that it's easier to detect different flavors. First, DO NOT SMOKE. Smoking kills your taste buds very easily. I'd also recommend avoiding drinking brown liquors whenever possible. Also, try to avoid extremely spicy foods, as well as foods like wasabi and, yes, even Skittles (my former fave) - they make your palate grow accustomed to the strength of those flavors, so it ends up being harder to detect other ones.
One more thing - the only reason I can detect things like blackberry and vanilla is because I'm familiar with what those taste like. The only way you can compare is to know what to compare with. Start broadening your taste horizons altogether - try some lycee, mango, cinnamon, boysenberry, molasses ... the possibilities are endless! It just takes some practice, a bit of luck and a lot of fun!
3. What does medium-bodied mean? - The body of the wine means the density of the wine in your mouth and in the glass. The heavier the wine feels and tastes in your mouth, the heavier the wine's body. Try and think of it like this: light-bodied feels more like water, and heavy-bodied feels more like vitamin-d milk, or even half-and-half. It's a pretty rough analogy and doesn't nearly encompass the true feeling of wine in your mouth, but I thought it might help a bit. Medium-bodied means that it had a strong consistency, but that it's on the lighter, smoother side. Kind of like a 2% milk! Merlots and stronger Pinot Noirs are most often leaning toward the medium-body, although a light Cabernet can often be put into that bracket.
There you go, friend! I hope that helped!
p.s. I love the iPhone! I snapped, cropped and Polarized the pick above in a study room of my school's library in one sitting ... all on my iPhone! Blogging has entered a new era of awesomeness.