A Guide to Tasting Wine: the 5 S’s

by Web Editor
Photo of Tasting Wine

I always say that wine is lived, not learned. With this I mean that wine has to be enjoyed and not looked upon as a mysterious potion to be studied. It is just wine! 

Tasting is a subjective moment. It is influenced by our own experience. People have a different sense of smell, more or less refined, but usually, at the first sniff, we all perceive the strongest scents and the ones that we can associate with something. Olfactory memory is very powerful but every person has his/her own. So it can be possible that you won’t recognize the scent that your partner is smelling in the same wine! So why learn how to taste? What is the purpose?
Tasting a wine has also an objective part and this can really be useful. Analyzing the wine with the senses can tell you if the wine is correct (meaning without faults) and what its characteristics are. Understanding what we are drinking can help us make decisions about the most suitable pairings with food and, why not, also to evaluate whether the price is fair or if there are discrepancies between the quality and what we are paying for. 
But, most important, tasting a wine will tell us its story: where it comes from, which grapes have been used, how the weather in that vintage was, how the winemaker decided to produce it.
The standard tasting has 5 steps which involve the sense of sight, smell, taste, and somehow even touch. To make them easier to remember, they are often called “the 5 S’s”.

1. See 

Hold the glass up in front of your eyes, and tilt it slightly. The color of the wine can tell you something about its age, where it comes from, and its concentration. Wines from northern, cooler climates tend to be lighter in color (color not as intense) as wines from warmer, southern climates.

2. Swirl

Swirling the wine in your glass aerates it, bringing oxygen into the wine and allowing it to release its aroma. Reminder: it’s best not to completely fill the glass, so you’ll have room to swirl the wine around.

3. Smell 

Smelling is one of the key moments of wine tasting. Flaws usually can be identified immediately: the wine will smell dull and stale. Take a sniff and try to name the scents: they can be flowers, fruits, spices and vegetables. They can even be associated with animals, leather, tobacco or stones. The list of possible fragrances is really long! The combination of the aromas is called bouquet or nose of the wine.

4. Sip 

Paola_Pavan_Personal_Wine_Shopper02Sip in order to bring out the full flavor of the wine to the palate. Be sure to move the wine around in your mouth to cover all of your taste buds. You’ll be able to taste the fruit and varietal characteristics, the acidity, the tannins, and the aftertaste. A long, pleasing aftertaste, or finish, is a sign of a quality wine.

5. Swallow (or spit) 

Professional tasters usually spit, especially if they have many wine glasses in front of them. But swallowing is the perfect conclusion to savoring the taste of the wine and having the whole experience.

By Paola Pavan

Now you are ready to start!

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for additional suggestions on the best start for a first tasting experience

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