The Toad-Kisser’s Guide to Wine: Your 5 “S”s of Tasting

Hello, fellow toad-kissers. Over the last couple of years I’ve gotten a bit rusty in my wine tasting knowledge. I used to have a small wine tasting business where hosts would invite me into their home to teach friends about wine and food. While PC and I enjoy wine together, I’ve forgotten many of the fundamentals in the art. Yesterday, my autumn wine club shipment arrived from Paoletti Winery, so I thought I might start brushing up on my wine etiquette. While I do, how about if we learn together. A little bit of wine knowledge comes in handy in the dating scene.

When we taste wine, we enliven our senses. We use the 5 S’s.

See – Wines have vivid colors, but when you see you look for quality. The ideal wine glass is clear instead of tinted for visual clarity. Hold your glass up against your white napkin and take in the color. If the wine appears cloudy or murky, sending the bottle back is appropriate. If you see gorgeous, clear red or gold move on to the next step.

Swirl – Why do we swirl? We swirl to get oxygen moving through the wine that has been corked up tight since bottling. We swirl to awaken the flavors. Have you been intimidated by watching an expert create a beautiful whirlpool by swirling the stem? So have I, so allow me to give you a perfectly appropriate cheater. Holding by the stem, set your glass on the table for stability. Place the stem between your middle and your pointer fingers, and move the glass in a circular motion. Gorgeous whirlpool! This is a great way to start knowing how the rotation feels to get that gorgeous whirlpool effect. In time, you will swirl like the experts too.

Sniff – Don’t be shy – get your nose in the glass. Absorb the aromas of chocolate, tobacco, pear, or berry. Smell is subjective. Finding blackberry in Cabernet doesn’t mean the winemaker added blackberries, and it doesn’t mean you are wrong if someone else smells raspberry. It means that the scent in winemaker’s artistry reminds you of the that fragrance. The earth, the vine and the season brought the berry flavor out of the Cabernet grape, and you were able to recognize the subtleties. This is a great conversation-starter for your date.

Finally, Sip – Hooray! Get a hearty sip. Allow the wine to coat the different areas of your mouth. Is the wine sweet and fruity? How about dry – does the sip leave you thirsty? That is my favorite – a deep, dry red.

Now the final “S”. I’ll bet you think I’m going to say spit., right? Heavens, No. Savor the excitement as the wine awakens your taste buds. Swish it around your mouth. Feel the weight as it lingers. Would you describe the wine as heavy? Bold? Light? Maybe delicate? This is known as the body.

Enjoy the wine’s finish – this is the taste that is left behind for you to enjoy – the aftertaste. How long does the finish linger? This is known as the length. The longer the finish, the higher the quality of wine. If the experience leaves you as soon as you swallow, you might comment that the wine was rather flat.

Most importantly, wine is subjective. You don’t need to know how to choose an expensive label to enjoy the grape. With a few basics, the mysteries of wine become intriguing rather than daunting. And the vulnerability of learning to share wine can be quite appealing to someone who wants to get to know a little more about you.

Cheers,

Heidi Lee

5 thoughts on “The Toad-Kisser’s Guide to Wine: Your 5 “S”s of Tasting

  1. Darn it! Wish this post had been up a couple of weeks ago, before I went wine tasting with my co-workers. Excellent tips that juts rub my little puppy nose in the fact that I could have gotten much more out of the trip.

    Oh well, next time (because there WILL be a next time.) Thanks!

  2. Well done… there is always a sixth for smashed, if you manage two bottles. 🙂 (Disclaimer: not a state I care to enter.)

    I do miss trying various wines. I’ve been to and through Napa Valley five times or so, and loved trying reserves at the smaller wineries. I could live there!

  3. Oh, Nelle, PC took me to Napa early this year. Not only did I slightly over-indulge in the tastings, he took me on a spectacular ballon ride. I could move there in an instant if I could afford the property 🙂
    Oh well, I live close to Door Co, WI which is almost as pretty.
    And for you, my dear Ms Nelle, we add the 6th “S” – smashed. Love it! Now I believe I’m off to sample from the grape. I’ll lift my glass to that one, Nelle.
    Cheers!

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