The 5 “Esses”
We all love drinking wine. I mean, why else would you be here? However, tasting wine and drinking wine are two very different things. In this section, we go over the basic steps wine professionals and enthusiasts use to break down what is happening in your glass!
These steps are also known as The 5 “Esses”- See, Swirl, Smell, Sip, Savor.
The first step in evaluating a wine is to take a look! (It’s easiest to do this step over a white surface.) Tip your glass sideways. What range of colors are you seeing? Is the wine clear or cloudy? Is it thin and watery, or thick and syrupy? These are clues as to how the wine was made and its age.
For this step, always hold your wine glass by the stem. Holding your glass by the bowl can change the wine’s temperature (presumably, is at the proper serving temperature). Now, swirl the wine around! This breaks the surface tension of the wine and allows the aromas to fill the bowl of your glass.
Stick your nose into your glass (don’t be shy!) and take a deep breath. Since aroma is a massive part of your taste, this is a crucial step. What is it that you smell? If you’re new to wine tasting, start small. For whites- is it fresh and citrusy? Floral? Nutty? For reds- do you get fruit- is it more like raspberries or plums? Or is it earthy- like mushrooms or meat? Once you can describe the basic aromas, dig deeper- is this citrus warmer like a clementine or cool like a lime? Is the fruit more like berries or peaches? The more time you spend with the wine, the more aromas you’ll begin to discover.
Here’s the fun part- take a sip (just a small sip!) and slurp the wine through your teeth. Yes, it will be noisy, but that’s OK! Take a minute to let the wine move around your mouth before you swallow. First, what did you feel? Was the wine acidic (did it make your mouth salivate)? Or was the wine bitter-also called tannic- (did it make create a drying sensation)? You can also get a sense of the wine’s body- think like water, thick like syrup, or something in-between.
Reflect on what you just tasted. What were your overall impressions of the wine? What sort of flavors did you discover in the wine? Were they similar to the aromas that you smelled earlier (oftentimes, the aromas and flavors can be very different)? Did the wine seem balanced? Or did it have too much of something- too acidic, too bitter, etc? Did the wine have a lingering finish? In other words, could you keep tasting the wine for several moments after you swallowed?
Now sit back, relax, and enjoy your bottle!