Wine tasting can be broken down into five steps. The five ‘S Steps’ in wine tasting are: see, swirl, sniff, sip, savour. Below are steps 1-3, check back next week for the last two!
Step #1 See
Hold the wine glass up so you can see through the wine, and then hold it against a light background. Note the color as well as the intensity of the color. Young wines are the color of the grape they were created from. Wine tends to darken with age. The intensity of the wine color is generally determined from the area the grapes were grown. Grapes grown in hotter climates tend to be more intense in color.
Wine is usually transparent but occasionally a wine maker chooses not to filter the wine. Filtered wines that are murky or cloudy may be sick and not fit to drink.
Step # 2 Swirl
We swirl wine to bring air into the wine and intensify the bouquet (smell) of the wine. The wine that clings to the sides of the glass has more surface area to evaporate and creates more aromas. White wine, usually served in a smaller glass, needs to be swirled gently while holding the stem (we do not want the warmth of our hand on the bowl to affect the wine). Red wine, usually served in a larger bowled glass, may be swirled gently while holding the bowl of the glass.
Step #3 Sniff
The bouquet of the wine helps to determine the character of the wine. The first sniff should happen just after the wine is poured into the glass (before the swirl). This ‘first nose’ senses the most volatile aroma – the aroma that escapes easily from the wine. The second sniff occurs after the swirl and receives a more complex variety of aromas. Generally, higher quality wines have a more complex aroma.
White wines usually have a fruity or floral aroma while red wines can have spicy, leathery, earthy or berry-like aromas. Smells that indicate the wine is off include corkiness, mustiness or a ‘too sweet’ scent.