#Vino 101: Five #wine tasting basics

So how ’bout those New Year’s resolutions?

Wait! Come back! This isn’t about guilt trips.

It’s about the trips you take to your favorite wine bar or winery. One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2014 is to taste more wine. If that sounds more doable than dragging yourself to the gym each morning at 5, here’s a five-step wine tasting formula that just may inspire you to join me.


The five S’s: See. Swirl. Sniff. Sip. Spit.

1. See. How a wine looks can tell you a lot about what’s in your glass. For example, the younger a white wine is, the paler it looks. Conversely, the older a red wine is, the lighter in color it will appear. More advanced tasters may be able to tell what type of grape the wine is made from by how it looks, e.g., a Cabernet Sauvignon will look inky, while a Pinot Noir will appear more clear.


2. Swirl. When you swirl wine around in your glass, you’re releasing the little odor molecules that give wine its flavor and aroma. The only wine you don’t want to swirl is a sparkling wine. Exposure to air will cause the wine to lose its fizziness and some of its  flavor characteristics.


3. Sniff. Smelling a wine can give you more clues about its origins and how it was made. If you’re smelling vanilla, cedar or tobacco, it’s an indicator that the wine was aged in oak barrels. If you’re smelling a lot of fruit, it’s possible the wine comes from the New World, or a winemaking region outside of Europe. Mineral aromas like gravel, flint or wet stone may mean the wine is made in the Old World or European style.


4. Sip. Notice I said sip and not gulp. A smaller sip allows you to discreetly swirl the wine around in your mouth so that you can pick up more aromas, and thus  get a better sense for the wine’s flavor.

5. Spit. You’re probably wondering why anyone would want to waste perfectly good wine. I’ll drink to that! But if you overdo it, your ability to distinguish flavor characteristics plummets. It’s like meeting a chulo guy (or hot señorita) in a bar. The more you drink, the less likely you’ll be able to tell a winner from a stalker/TV Guide hoarder. Save the ambitious drinking for dinner. And make sure you have a ride home. Preferably not from aforementioned serial killer/Beanie Babies doll collector.


Now go forth and taste, chicas y chicos. And if you need a motivational group to help you achieve this most grueling of New Year’s resolutions, you know where to find me. ¡Salud!


2 thoughts on “#Vino 101: Five #wine tasting basics

  1. My better half recently asked me, very seriously over a nice dinner out, what my NYRS resolution was. Before my filter could go up I very excitedly explained I was going to extend my 2013 resolution of not hoarding good wines and drinking more of them. The look on their face pretty much said it all. Obviously the correct answer would have been ending world hunger or getting my PHD. LOL. Glad to see your resolution; “One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2014 is to taste more wine” I am not alone!
    Feliz ano nuevo!

    1. Feliz año, Ernest! I have a feeling your significant other will be more supportive of your New Year’s resolution once you ply them with a few sips of Brunello di Montalcino or Chateau d’Ausone. Enjoy it in good health!

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