Wine Basics - The 5 S’s of Wine Tasting

It can be fun to attend wine tastings, visit wineries and vineyards, or to simply share a glass with a friend. But wine can be a confusing thing to begin learning about, particularly if you have not been around wine aficionados and if you are not one yourself. Most people may not know the difference between a Bordeaux or a Shiraz, or the difference between a Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, other than that some are red, and some are white. When you begin to add sparkling wines and dessert wines it may just seem too overwhelming to a new wine enthusiast.


An easy thing to remember if you are new to wine tasting is the 5 S’s – see, swirl, sniff, sip, and savour. When it comes to evaluating wine, this is a simple beginner approach.



This first step is perhaps the easiest – all you have to do is look! Inspecting what is in your glass can help you predict what you are about to taste. Here, you’re looking for the colour, depth and intensity of the wine to give you an idea of the age, concentration and body of the wine.



Swirling wine isn't just something that people do. This step is actually quite important for aerating your wine, as it lets oxygen reach your wine to open it up.



Get up close and personal with your wine for this step as you bring it up to your nose and take a big sniff. As you smell your wine, you’re looking for the intensity of the aroma as well as the actual scents you can smell (is it fruity? Or floral?). When it comes to the scent of your wine there may be many different things that you catch. There may be layers of different scents - the primary scent (from the grape itself), the secondary scent (influenced by the winemaker), and the tertiary scent (from the age).



It may take a while to get to the stage you’ve been waiting for, but it is worth the wait. Take a sip and swish the wine around your mouth. Get a complete feel for the taste and flavours of the wine. Like the previous stage, there can also be layers to the taste of the wine. Here you’re looking for the primary features (fruity? Or spicy?), secondary features (influenced by the winemaker – fermentation flavours), and tertiary features (resulting from bottle aging).



The final step – savour the final taste of the wine. How long does the enjoyable feeling stay on your palate when you finish your sip? You’ll also like to consider the balance of flavours and texture of the wine at the same time. You’ll know that you’ve found a good one if you are left wishing for another sip.