The Five S's of Wine Tasting
Girl smells glass of red wine before tasting

To all of you holier-than-thou wine snobs who say there is a specifically correct way that we should be tasting our wine - and consequently any other way is wrong - I say:

Hey, turns out you’re right!

I enjoy wine. To do so, I used to follow a simple three-step process:

  1. I pour some wine in a glass.
  2. I put the wine in my mouth, and then...
  3. I enjoy it.

It really is that simple. No fanfare, no commentary, no intricate procedures. Wine is actually very easy to enjoy.

So I don’t need some bow-tied, French-accented Master Sommelier telling me how to do it. As a human being, I instinctively know how to consume a beverage. Thanks anyway.

But, now I have to admit that I am a convert. I have tasted wine using my own reliably simple method, i.e. the put-it-in-my-mouth method. And then I tasted the same wine with the guidance of a wine tasting professional. I must admit, with my uneducated tail between my unsophisticated legs, that my enjoyment of the wine increased noticeably.

Today I will give you a gift. I’ll share a simple formula to take wine tasting to a new level. There's an easy to remember method that has become a dependable standard for the way to taste wine. It's designed to make the most of all your senses, which enhances the overall tasting experience. Having tried it, I can vouch.

It’s called the five S's.

SEE. Once the wine is in the glass, take a moment to observe its color. Generally, this works best against a white background (the back side of the tasting notes, a table cloth, a wall - whatever is handy). A big part is simply appreciating the visual beauty of wine in a glass. To me, it can look like a brilliant gemstone - a Chardonnay is like a yellow citrine, and a Cabernet is like a ruby. It also gives you a little preview of what your taste buds can expect. As a general rule, the deeper the color saturation, the greater the flavor intensity. And certain visual cues - like a coppery ring around the edge - can indicate that the wine is past its prime.

SWIRL. Swirling is more than a fun diversion, like a more sophisticated version of playing with a fidget spinner. It has purpose (although being fun is purpose enough). It churns the liquid, drawing in oxygen from the air, which can help soften harsh tannins, and releases the wine's bouquet so that the next S is more satisfying.

SMELL. Contrary to what most might think, the sense of smell, not taste, is the boldest contributor to the pleasure of wine tasting. I'm good substantiation for this fact. I get happy just breathing in the aroma of one of my favorite wines. More than the other two steps, smelling the wine builds anticipation and becomes a major determinant of the perceived flavor once the wine is in your mouth. Speaking of which...

SIP. At last! But it's a sip, not a gulp. When tasting, take a slightly larger sip than usual and hold it in your mouth for three to five seconds, letting it coat the entire surface of your mouth. Your body heat will further liberate the aromatics, which is a fancy way for saying the flavors will begin to pop. And letting the wine rest on every part of your pallet will reveal its full flavor profile. Your tongue has different flavor zones - sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. A great wine will reveal its full balanced profile when experienced by the entire range of your remarkable flavor sensing organ.

SAVOR. Simply put, this is the part where you swallow and, if the wine is exceptional, you think "ahhhhhh, that's nice." The sensation you get from swallowing the wine will actually be very different from the sensation when the wine is cradled in your mouth. A really superb wine will not have a harsh alcohol taste. And many wines will have an exceptionally long finish, meaning the taste lingers for as long as a minute. It's like a short video instead of merely a snapshot.

Try the Five S's and, like me, you will be a convert. You will enjoy wine even more. Yes, it's possible.


~ Kay Syrah

Wine Country Guru Gal

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