The Six Steps of Wine Tasting: See, Swirl, Sniff, Sip, Swish and Swallow or Spit

July 8, 2017

Drinking wine is different from drinking other everyday beverages, such as soda or fruit juice. It is true that wine can also be drunk and swallowed without paying much attention. While many drinks we consume go down fast and without a second thought, consuming wine this way is to miss its uniqueness and complexity. Slowing down and appreciating wine make for a very special experience. This beverage deserves a bit more time and focus.

To taste wine you do not need to be an expert just opened minded and willing to learn. The aromas of wine are all around us in nature and are, therefore, familiar: wood, coffee, vanilla, chocolate, herbs, butterscotch, grass and fruits, such as lemon, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, apple, peach. If you smell it you are probably correct, so an advanced degree is not needed. It is about learning to recognize and then describe in words what you are experiencing. That comes with a little bit of practice.

The first step is to SEE. Fill your wine glass about 1/3 full. Holding at a 45 degree angle and against a white background, such as a tablecloth, look down into your glass to observe the rich color of the wine. Is it cherry, purple, black, deep red, pale red, lemon, golden, amber? You can describe the color in your own words. No rules here. Say what you see. Also, is the wine clear or cloudy?

Next you will want to SWIRL by placing your glass flat on the table, holding the base and quickly turning it in a circular motion three to five times. Swirling wine spreads it out over the surface of the inside of the glass releasing the aromas. Wine mixes with the air and the aromas vaporize so that you can smell them.

Now it is time to put your nose right in the glass and take a deep SNIFF. Let your imagination and your sense of smell and taste go wild. What do you smell? Again, if you sense it you are right. By smelling wine you are training your memory for future tastings. Many suggest leaving your cologne or perfume at home when wine tasting as this can interfere with your perceptions as well as those of other guests.

Take a SIP, not too much, you want to able to move the wine around your mouth. Breathe in gently as you sip drawing the aromas into the mouth and nasal passages in the back of the throat. It is said that tasting wine is 80% aroma and 20% tasting.

SWISHING the wine around in your mouth will expose it to all the different types of taste buds that are found on the tongue. Sweetness is detected on the very front, tip of the tongue and saltiness on the top, front of the tongue. Acidity can be tasted on the sides of the tongue and bitterness at the center back. What do you taste?

The final step is to decide whether you want to SWALLOW or SPIT out the wine into a large plastic, throw away cup. To swallow is, of course, a pleasure, but if you are going to be tasting several varieties of wine you may want to spit it out in order not to confuse your palate. Another reason to spit is so that you do not drink too much. Not only can swallowing effect how the other wines taste but you can also get tipsy. No matter what the occasion you must always be aware of who will be driving home. Drink responsibly always.

Wine Tasting is fun so do not make it a complicated, scientific endeavor. These six steps keep the process simple and enjoyable. The main question you want to answer is “Do I like the wine or wines I just tasted?” And then review what you learned about the wine or wines you just experienced. By following these six easy steps to wine tasting you will soon develop your nose and palate and your wine vocabulary. You will be a pro in no time. Cheers!

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