You don't have to be a wine snob to enjoy the ritual of wine tasting, but if you've never done it before, it can feel a little intimidating at first. Don't be daunted--most pourers are happy to show you how. But to give you a little confidence before you go, we asked the folks at Mount Pleasant Winery to give us a crash course on tasting wine. They told us it was as simple as five S's.
- Sight: Holding the glass by the stem (so the heat of your hand won't warm the wine), raise the glass to the light. It should be clear and free of sediment.
- Swirl: Keeping the glass on the table, swirl the wine. This mixes in oxygen, letting the wine breathe, and releases the wine's distinct aromas, called the "nose."
- Smell: Start sniffing above the glass, because some of the scents waft higher. Don't be afraid to stick your nose right in (the glass, not the wine). Open your mouth as you inhale, and see if that changes the smell.
- Sip: Don't gulp. Let it roll over your tongue, washing over your taste buds. Draw a little air in your mouth to further oxygenate the wine.
- Swallow (or spit): Appreciate the aftertaste, which is called the finish. Is it short, long, clean, crisp, bitter, acidic, or soft? The flavor often changes several times. Most tasting wines have a spittoon so you don't have to swallow every wine you taste. (If you're tasting many wines, it's not a bad idea to use one.)