No, this is not going to be a Joycean literary exposition. Rather, it's the answer to a question that I get a lot -- how do you know so much about what wine tastes like?
The Wine Curmudgeon would like to say it is because I am special, a genius, or even an idiot savant. In fact, it is because I taste a lot of wine -- maybe more than 1,000 bottles a year (though not necessarily the entire bottle every time).
Hence, no special skills or secret tasting genes. Learning what wine tastes like is about repetition. If you drink sauvingon blanc enough times, you'll learn what it tastes like, as well as the different styles -- New Zealand, California, France, and the like. I didn't learn how to recognize oak in chardonnay because I have a nostril oak detector; instead, I drank enough chardonnay to figure out that the vanilla smell was caused by oak.
This came up the other day in my Cordon Bleu class when we were discussing food and wine pairings. I was talking about the different sauvignon blanc styles, and a student said: "Why do you know that? How do you know that?" And I pointed out that he had probably tasted two sauvignon blancs in his life, both during the class tasting. I had tasted thousands, going back almost 20 years. That experience makes a huge difference.
Which is what I tell people when they ask me how to lean about wine. First, drink a bottle, and write down what it tastes likes (also the name, which a lot people forget to do). What are the flavors? Is it fruity? Is it dry or sweet? Did you like it? Why or why not?
Then, go to a good liquor or wine store and ask the employee to recommend something similar to the first wine that is more or less the same price range. Take the bottle home, and do the same thing -- noting flavors, style, and whether you liked it. Repeat this process often enough -- regularly for two years is a good start -- and you'll be able to recognize wine. It really is that simple.