The best way to taste a wine


Follow the 5S’s… See, Swirl, Smell, Sip & Spit or Swallow

Although you might say that the best way to taste a wine is to ‘just drink some of it’ there is a much better and rewarding way in taking a more methodical approach.

Wine offers so many different flavours, smells and sensations, it seems a shame not to experience all that is available.

Take say a third of a glass of the wine you wish to taste. The flavours of a good wine can last many minutes and to fully enjoy it takes time and attention.


Holding the glass sample at an angle preferably in front of a white sheet of paper, the wine should look clean and not cloudy, if white, ranging from water white to a rich golden colour. If red, from a purple ruby colour to garnet. Pure brown could mean it is old.


Being careful not to spill any, give the glass a good swirl, this releases more of the aroma.


Does it smell OK? If it smells like old potato peelings, wet cardboard or rags, it is said to be corked – don’t drink it or cook with it. From the aromas given it is possible to judge the age of the wine, the grape variety and the method used to make the wine etc. Describing the smell is what most people find difficult. Is it Strawberry, spice, vanilla, apricots etc. Try to do it, whatever you say is right as you are the only one with your sense of smell.


Take a slow sip, do not swallow but hold the wine in your mouth and chew it. The 10,000 or so taste buds in your mouth all want their own taste. If you can (practice over a sink) open your mouth and take in air for a gurgling sound. This aerates the wine and releases more aromas. Is it sweet or savoury? What sort of fruit does it taste like? Has it got spicy, peppery or meaty flavours?


After dispensing with the wine, drinking or spitting, how long does the taste linger in your mouth? Usually the longer the better, anything longer than 15 seconds is good.


It is useful to make notes of what you experience so as to follow up at a later date.