The 5 S’s of Wine Tasting

When I gave tours at Jackson-Triggs, we always finished with a tasting (just incase my lovely and informative tour wasn’t quite worth your $10.00).

The more I did this tasting, the more I got into a solid 5 step process. These steps are a good intro into tasting, and possibly even useful at a restaurant. How often have you been poured a sample of wine after ordering…the table watching as you’re left to decipher whether the wine is any good or not? It can be a little nerve wracking, or maybe that’s just me. Regardless, I hope these tips help the next time you’re tasting.

1. Sight

  • The first thing to do when you’re poured a glass of wine is simply look at it. You’re looking for colour and clarity. The colour can help depict how old the wine is (white wines get darker with age and red wines get lighter), but clarity is also important. If the wine is cloudy check to see if it’s been filtered. If the wine is unfiltered that cloudiness is fine. There may even be some particles floating around (completely harmless, probably just leftover yeast).

2. Sniff

  • So, why are we smelling twice in this process? I’ll explain. I know once you get a glass of wine you feel instantly compelled to swirl – don’t we all? but often times, once we begin to swirl we can mask or blow off any off odours (faults) that may be present. So give it a quick sniff before you swirl to ensure nothing funky is present.

3. Swirl

  • The fun bit, the chance to take your wine on a wild lil ride. Why do we do this? (besides the obvious cool factor) we’re aerating our wine. We’re exposing it to more oxygen which in turn, helps release the wine’s aroma. Once you’ve swirled your wine for a few seconds, you’ll notice the aroma is stronger. The more you swirl the better!

4. Smell

  • Once you’ve swirled, now you can really begin to smell your wine. You can start to pick out certain aromas. Do you smell citrus, red fruit, leather, tobacco, coffee? Guess what? you’re never wrong, so guess away. Try your best to pin point specific scents, as hard as it may be.The more you really smell your wine, the more familiar you’ll get with what certain varietals tend to offer up.

5. Sip

  • This is also something you can do twice. That first sip you take might just cleanse your palate of whatever you’ve just had. So take another sip when your ready to really analyze that wine.
  • Let the wine reach every part of your palate, let it hang out for a bit before you swallow. Once you swallow, how long can you still taste that wine? If you can taste the wine for quite a long time, that’s a wine with a long finish, or good “length”. And what about mouth feel? Is the wine full bodied or light bodied? Think about having a glass of water vs. milk. The mouth feel of water, that’s a light bodied wine, but the sensation of milk, now you’re describing a full bodied, dense and heavy wine.
  • We can go on and on about tasting (once we actually start the sipping part!) but this is a good place to start.

OK, now go get your tasting on.


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