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Wine Wisdoms #33: The 5 S’s of Wine Tasting (Taste Like the Experts)

Thursday, June 4th, 2009 at 11:53:27 AM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

5 S’s of Wine Tasting If you’ve ever been confused by all the swirling and sniffing that goes on at a wine tasting, the 5 S’s are a great place to start. These are the basics steps one should go through when tasting wine, in order to appreciate it to the fullest.

See- All wine tasting begins by holding the glass up to a good light and then, ideally, viewing the glass against a white surface. Your wine color should be clear and not opaque unless you have an aged wine with a ton of sediment. Take a moment to note the color. If it is a white wine is it: Yellow? Gold? Straw colored? Water white? If it is a red wine would you call it: Ruby? Purple? Garnet? Wines can range dramatically in color depending on the type of grape used to make the wine and how long the wine sat with the skins or macerated. As wines age they get lose color so a good look at the color of the wine can tell you a bit about how old it is. Also, notice the streams of water on the sides of your glass. These are called legs. Legs are a point of contention as some affirm that the more legs a wine has, the better the wine. Others claim that legs denote sugar or alcohol content. There are also those who say that legs do not mean anything!

Sniff- The next step is to give your wine a nice big sniff. Don’t be shy. Stick your nose way into the bowl of the glass and try to decipher the smells. Remember that wine tasting can be subjective and there are no right or wrong answers. Do you smell fruit? If so, what kind of fruit is it? Is it a black fruit? A tropical fruit? Does your wine smell like oak? Or, is it difficult to smell anything at all? This is certainly possible if you have yet to swirl your wine.

Swirl- After your initial sniff, hold your wine at the base and lightly swirl the wine in your glass. Get a nice momentum going with your wrist. The swirling process sends oxygen through the wine, expands the surface area and allows the aromas to open up. This is sometimes called “swirling the esters.”

Sniff- Now, smell your wine again. Do you notice a change? There should be a remarkable difference between your pre-swirl and post-swirl sniff. If not, work your wine a bit more and give it some time to open. Try your best to pinpoint the aromas and write them down if you’d like.

Sip- Finally, take a nice big sip of your wine. Let the wine spread out across your mouth, curl your tongue, and breathe in air through your tongue. This will send air through the wine once again while in your mouth and allow it to open even further. What do you taste? Sweetness? Dryness? Spice? Fruitiness? The sky is the limit! Did the taste surprise you? Was it similar on the palate to the nose? After you swallow, take a minute to notice the finish and the length of the wine. The “finish” is the after-taste and the “length” is the period of time that it lingers. A really good wine will have a pleasing finish and a very long length. A poor wine falls flat very quickly.

Now you are ready to taste with the experts!

For more help on wine tasting, check out our wine tasting tool collection.

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5 Responses to “Wine Wisdoms #33: The 5 S’s of Wine Tasting (Taste Like the Experts)”

  1. If it turns out to be a really bad wine, I guess the sixth S would be ‘Spit’

  2. Great tips, I would have to add a 6th or 7th in addition to margaux80…Safe travel. Many times tasters drink too much and may not be driving safely afterward. I encourage tasters to have a great time with friends and enjoy the tasting and use a car service so no one has to worry about driving, and why not taste in style with a classy limo.

  3. [...] 1, 2010 in something new | Tags: Drinks!, NYC, something new See, Sniff, Swirl, Sniff, Sip ( – who hasn’t tried out these 5 S’s on a nice pinot or rioja?  All the cool [...]

  4. Actually, it’s See, Swirl, Smell, Sip, Sip/Swallow. Although, I’ve noticed with a good wine, you can often smell it as soon as you open the bottle.

  5. Sorry, should be spit/swallow not sip/swallow

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