There are five key steps to remember in order to get the full benefit from a glass of wine; better known as the Five S’s of Wine Tasting!
1) See – Hold your glass up to the light, tilt is slightly and take a good look.
With a white wine you’re looking for clarity, brilliance, cleanness. A white wine should always look fresh and clean; even chilled it should look welcoming. White wines range in color from pale, pale yellow, to straw-colored, to golden, to a robust yellow. There should not be any floaters, no cloudy substance; nothing dull that detracts from the wine's brilliance. (You can even hold your glass up to a white or lightly colored wall to see better.)
Red wines can be blush colored, ruby, garnet, deep purple, even almost black. If the red is consistently the same color– you’re in good shape. Reds should also look welcoming – something you anticipate putting in your mouth. If a red wine has a brownish ring at the top of the wine, or a brownish tinge throughout, it's oxidized and past it’s prime. Sorry, this is a dumper.
2) Swirl – When learning, this is best done by placing the base of the glass on a table or hard surface and giving the glass a good rotation, ‘swirling’ it. Do this for ten to fifteen seconds to allow the air to penetrate the wine’s surface and get some oxygen in there to release the aromas.
3) Sniff – Yes, this looks pretentious, but if you want to truly enjoy all aspects of wine – give it a go. You will be amazed by the different aromas you can identify. As soon as you finish the swirl, stick your nose in that glass and inhale those heavenly aromas. You can't just wave the glass under your nose or hold it several inches away and sniff; You’ll know you have it right when you can breath in the wine’s aroma, and only the wine’s aroma.
Some of the aromas that you’re looking for include floral, fruity, spicy, nutty, oaky, earthy, mushrooms, cedar, smoke, asparagus, and tar. In fact, if you want to get really good at this order a wine aroma wheel and learn how to put a name to what you smell and taste.
4) Sip – Notice I said sip, not guzzle it down. My rule of thumb – the first sip does not count. Swish it around your mouth and tongue, and swallow. Is it sweet? Dry? (What a wine is called with minimal sugar.) Somewhere in between? The second sip, and on, are where you will start to identify the flavors. Some people ‘chew’ their wines when tasting – as if chewing a piece of food. Others open their mouths slightly and draw in air to mix with the wine in their mouths, (called aerating the wine.) Both ways help you get the full flavors at the back of your throat and nasal passages. And a truly good wine will have several flavors.
|Aroma Wheel Close Up|
Now, grab that aroma wheel and see if you can identify the taste of those smells. Notice how long the flavors remain in your mouth after you’ve swallowed the wine. This is called the ‘finish.’
Finally, it's time to sit back and ...
5) Savor – Because in all honesty, that's why we drink wine, to share it, discuss it, and enjoy. So, go ahead, pour a glass of your favorite and see, swirl, smell, sip and savor to your heart's content.