The Five S’s of Wine Tasting
If you are unfamiliar with wine tasting, it can be an intimidating experience, especially if you are among experts who can swiftly identify flavours of oak and black cherry in a full-bodied wine from an open bottle sitting on a table ten feet away from you.
A good place to start with your wine-tasting training would be to practice the five S’s of wine tasting:
These are the five steps that allow you to fully appreciate the wine you’re drinking. Each of the five S’s provides a different perspective of the wine, allowing you to evaluate its colour, aroma, flavour, and complexity.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced wine connoisseur, the five S’s are an essential tool for evaluating and appreciating wine. With a little practice and patience, you can learn to identify the positive characteristic taste of wines grown in different soil types.
The First S – Sight
Let’s start with sight. Look at the wine’s colour. For whites, is it yellowish or pinkish? Do you see any residual sugar? For reds, is it light red, dark red or purplish in colour?
Hold your glass up to the light. Is it clear or cloudy? Some unfiltered wines will look a bit cloudy but that is to be expected. Does the wine appear light-bodied or full-bodied based on appearance?
The Second S – Swirl
Now it is time to swirl. By swirling your wine, you are introducing oxygen which releases the wine’s flavours and aromas. You are also checking to see if that bad boy has any legs. Do wine droplets bead up a bit when they make contact with the inside wall of the bowl of your wine glass after you swirl? The more legs, the higher the alcohol content.
The Third S – Sniff
Any winemaker will tell you, the way the wine smells is just as important as how it tastes. Wine tasters must learn to inhale the wine’s flavours deeply and detect the subtle flavours and nuances. The scent of a wine can also be used to determine the wine’s quality and give clues to its varietal character. Is the scent fruity, floral, or spicy, or does it have earthy overtones?
The Fourth S – Sip
Take a sip of the wine and give it a few seconds to linger in your mouth. As you drink, take note of the wine’s taste, flavours, body, and acidity. Any flavours, such as fruit forward, sweet, sour, highly acidic, or salty, should be easy to taste and distinguish.
The Fifth S – Savour
Finally. time to sit back and enjoy! To savour a wine is to appreciate and enjoy its taste, flavour and aroma slowly. Pay attention to the various flavour notes and nuances and the way they interact with your palate. This is often done by taking small sips and giving the wine time to linger in the mouth before swallowing. It involves using all of your senses to completely appreciate the wine, including its colour, texture, and finish. It also entails getting to know the wine better and strengthening your relationship with it.
Wine Tasting Experiences Are Even Better with Food Pairings
The ideal food-wine pairing can bring out the various nuances and flavours that enhance the wine’s taste and flavour. For instance, drink a crisp white wine with seafood to bring out the wine’s subtle notes while a full-bodied red might be enjoyed with a juicy steak to bring out the wine’s more robust characteristics. Sweet wines pair perfectly with desserts, especially sinfully delicious ones.
Food samples can also act as a palate cleanser between different wine tastings, allowing you to fully appreciate the unique qualities of each. Overall, incorporating food samples into a wine tasting can create a more well-rounded and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
Get the Most from Your Wine Tasting Experience by Using the Correct Wine Glass
The Three (3) Basic Shapes of Wine Glasses
There are three main styles of wine glasses. Each is designed to maximize your tasting experience and allows the wine being tasted to present itself under the most ideal conditions. It doesn’t matter whether you buy expensive wines or less expensive non-vintage wines, your tasting experience will be greatly enhanced if you use the correct style during your wine tasting.
Glasses for White Wines
Glasses for white wines have a narrower bowl and a smaller opening to help preserve the wine’s cooler temperature and delicate aromas.
The number one grape used to produce white wine in Prince Edward County is the Chardonnay grape. Other popular grape varieties grown in The County include Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewürztraminer.
Chardonnay is frequently referred to as the “hardship grape” here in The County since it is a grape variety that is particularly difficult to grow in this area’s chilly climate. Chardonnay grape growers must carefully regulate the grape’s growing season and harvest the fruit at the ideal moment. The goal is to get the Brix (alcohol content) up to as high a level as possible while leaving enough time to harvest before the cold-wet fall weather sets in.
Glasses for Red Wines
Red wine glasses have a wide bowl and a larger opening that allows for the wine to breathe and release its aromas.
The number one red wine grape variety grown in Prince Edward County is Pinot Noir, which can be credited to The County’s cool climate and limestone-rich soils. Other popular County red wines include Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Merlot. All County reds are known for their elegant and refined styles, fruit-forward characteristics and refreshing acidity.
Champagne Flutes for Sparkling Wines
These glasses have a tall, slender stem and a tall, narrow bowl as well. This shape is designed to showcase the bubbles and preserve the wine’s state of carbonation.
The most common method a winemaker uses to produce sparkling wine in Prince Edward County is by fermenting the wine while still in the same bottle. This traditional method of winemaking results in a complex and layered flavour profile with fine bubbles. These wines are typically made with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes and have tasting notes of citrus, green apple, and brioche.
Other styles of wine glasses include Port glasses, dessert wine glasses, and stemless wine glasses.
Just One More Important Thing To Remember
You are on the cusp of becoming a wine-tasting pro. The Five S’s of Wine Tasting are now etched into your brain. You also know exactly which type of glass to use to enjoy your best wines. One for red wines, another for white wines, and you are good to go. You are a wine-tasting rock star, and it feels so good. Just one more valuable tool to add to your wine-tasting toolbox.
How to Properly Hold a Wine Glass
There is one final step that will solidify your position of bring a wine-tasting pro and that is; how to hold your glass. (Don’t blow it by grabbing your glass of wine as you would latch onto a cold Molson Canadian on a hot summer’s day.) After all, you have an image to protect now.
There are three basic parts of this type of stemware. The bowl, the stem and the base. You want to hold your glass of wine near the base of the stem only and ensure that you keep your glass as upright as possible. Holding it by the bowl of the glass will alter the temperature of the wine and impair your visual inspection of the wine through smudges and fingerprints.
Don’t overfill your glass either. Filling to half of the bowl capacity will allow you to swirl the wine around so that you can appreciate the wine’s colour and clarity.
Common Wine Tasting Terms
Wine descriptions can vary depending on the individual wine tasters and the specific wine being tasted. However, some of the most common wine descriptions for many wines include the following.
Complex Wines – These wines have a variety of flavours and aromas that are rich and multilayered. Positive characteristics and common tasting terms include depth, balance, and nuances that develop and linger on the palate.
Barrel Aged – Other wines are aged in toasty oak barrels to introduce new flavours and aromas. This process is referred to as barrel ageing.
Tannin Levels – Tannins are a by-product of grape skins, stems and seeds being in contact with the grape juice. High levels of tannins are most common in younger reds. Common wine descriptions for wines with high tannins would be that they have a high “pucker power”. Good news though, wine tannins contain antioxidants that help protect your cells against free radicals. Pucker up because having too many free radicals is what can lead to cancer, heart disease or other illnesses.
High Acidity – If wine descriptions indicate high acidity, it is measuring the level of tartness or sourness. These wines are crisp, and refreshing and are perfect with rich or heavy foods.
Congratulations! You Are Now a Wine Tasing Pro
We hope that these useful tasting tips will help appreciate a good wine even more than before.
We’d Love to Help You Sip & Swirl on Your Next Vacation Getaway
Why not put some of these wine-tasting tips to the test and visit us here in Prince Edward County for a guided wine tour with Sandbanks Vacations or a guided Sip & Cycle Bike Tour with The County Wine Tours? It would be the perfect opportunity for you to show off your new wine-tasting skills to friends & family.
We Have Some Pretty Cool Places to Stay Too
If you need a place to stay, we can help you with that too. Have a look at the selection of our carefully curated collection of private homes and cottages available for rent for short-term vacations and getaways. Or as many folks say these days, our Airbnbs. You will also find options for accommodations by visiting StayPEC, Prince Edward County’s Accommodation Association.