I struggled through the wine tasting part of the WSET Diploma course. It wasn't that I didn't have a pretty good palate. My friends, and later, my customers always seemed to like the wines I selected and I never enjoyed cheap and nasty bulk wines (which must, in my way of thinking, validate my choices somewhat). My problem was how to describe what I was smelling and tasting. For the Diploma, it mattered. But in real life, it doesn't. So, eventually, I evolved what I call the "Yum or Yuck" system of tasting.
This system can be as simple as just Yum or Yuck. That's good enough. Either you like the wine or you don't. And everyone who can smell and taste can do it.
Of course, you may want to get fancy and make the "Yum or Yuck" system follow the conventional "professional" system of Appearance, Nose, Palate and Conclusions. So here's the expanded version of the "Yum or Yuck" system.
Part I - Appearance - Does it look good? Who cares what colour it is besides red, white or pink? Of course, if it's a particularly pretty colour, that's fine to note. And if it resembles something from your septic tank, that's worth noting, too (that would be a definite "Yuck!").
Part II - Nose (or what does it smell like?) - In the "professional" system it is common to go all "Gilly Goolden" with your descriptions (Gilly Goolden is a well-known UK wine personality who used to be on the Food & Drink programme and was known for her very florid descriptions of the wine she tasted). So if you want to be professional in your wine descriptions, you can describe a wine as smelling of almost anything and everything. If you're very creative, you can describe a long list of scents you find in the glass.
But my scent descriptor is defective. At best I can usually manage generic flowers, fruits (red,white, or berries if I get fancy), savoury (not exactly what, just that it smells like dinner!), vegetal (bushes in general or herbal if fancy), and spices (again, nothing specific more often than not). However, the "Yum or Yuck" system really focuses more on how I feel about what I smell. That is, do I want to jump in the glass and do the backstroke through it's incredibly gorgeous sensual pleasures OR am I looking for the Glade to get the stink out? Of course, there's a wide universe between those two extremes. Do I like the smell a lot, a little, not very much or ... yuck, get me out of here! It's as simple as that.
Part III - Palate (or what does it taste like?) - Here, again, the pros use long and detailed descriptions of all the tastes in the glass. A wide variety of fruits, flowers, spices, minerals, and even more exotic descriptors (pencil lead, cigar box, wet stones, etc.) are regularly used. Well, if you taste them, that's swell and good for you, "use 'em if you've got 'em". Then there are all the "mouthfeel" descriptors used by the pros - is the wine big in the mouth, thin, acidic, fat, unctuous, tannic, structured, elegant, simple, etc, etc, etc. Nice to know and, actually, quite useful but NOT necessary. In my simple system, all you need to decide is does the wine taste good, bad or so-so? Does the wine feel good in your mouth as well as tasting good?
Part IV - Conclusions - Here's where the real pros get determined. The "good" ones try to tell you the country, region, grape varieties, vintage, producer, vineyard, heck, even the day the grapes were picked. Even the best can seldom get the country and variety right very often. But the REAL conclusion you need to reach is do you want more of this wine? Will you rush out to get more NOW, mortgaging the house or trading your children, if necessary? Will you gratefully accept a glass if offered? Will you bravely sip from a glass reluctantly accepted if necessary? OR, will you pour the vile stuff into the nearest loo? In short, is this wine a YUM or a YUCK?
You are now an expert taster. Try it yourself.