See – Swirl – Sniff – Sip – Savor
The 5’s of wine tasting should merely be regarded as an outline. While each step is important sometimes you have to gather information at your own pace. It has been made to seem that tasting rules are rigid and must be done a certain way. As a veteran tasting room host I can say that it is heartbreaking to witness guests stress over outdated winery etiquette. You should feel comfortable and there is no correct answer to your sensory experience. A star tasting room host should be able to talk about the wine being served while allowing guests to come up with their own creative descriptors.
See – observing the tones and hues of wine are helpful while gathering information on alcohol content and identifying a varietal. Classically Chardonnay is straw or golden hued while, Syrah is a beautiful inky purple. Wine legs are common specifically to sugar content – not to show quality of wine.
Swirl – the big pro gesture is to swirl wine before taking a sip. Why? Oxygen transforms the aromas and flavors in wine through the process of oxidation. Oxygen during the aging process is limited so after it is introduced the wine is allowed to ‘open up’. Quality wine, usually red will take on a different composition after resting in an open bottle or decanter.
Sniff – the olfactory system (your nose) is a powerful way to gather information. Smell is linked to taste and adds aromas that you may not find when you taste. A Chenin Blanc from California will undoubtably produce a sea spray essence. A fortified wine, like a port, will give off a rich chocolate aroma!
Sip – the best part. Wine truly uses its own language. There should be a thesaurus dedicated to how wine vernacular can change the way you perceive taste! Chewy, round, brilliant, or clacky are all adjectives to describe the presence of tannins and acid. The words are difficult to imaging without a glass in your hand. But, after you sip a high tannin Malbec and your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth – clacky – suddenly makes sense. There is a basic outline of what the varietal should taste like as agreed on by the winemaker. It is subjective. Tasting orange blossom for one could be honeysuckle for another while, citrus could wander into tropical.
Savor – sit back and reflect on all of the notes that have been presented by the grapes. Sometimes tasting works through the power of suggestion. A pineapple is tangy, sticky, and tropical. Picture in your mind tasting a pineapple then take a sip of a tropical Pinot Grigio.