Katy Rutland
January 7, 2015 | Katy Rutland

FAQ: So...How Do I Do This?

Our Wine Educators treat all kinds of people to Terra Blanca wines, from the wine cognoscenti to the novice drinker. Some of our guests work for other wineries, make wine, drink it occasionally, are practically sommeliers, and every experience level in between.


No matter where you fall in the wine drinking spectrum, here are some tips to a question our Wine Educators wouldn’t mind answering more frequently.


“So how do I taste wine?”


We’re big fans of mnemonic devices here. Remember “The 3 Vs of Wine”? Today we’ll be introducing you to the 5 Ss of wine tasting.


1. Swirl


A sub-FAQ for this article could be, “Why do you swirl?” The answer is simple: to get oxygen into the wine. This is especially important for red wines, which need a little convincing to open up, similar to that shy friend you know. If you’re uncomfortable picking up the glass or feel like you’re just sloshing the wine around, set the glass on the bar and more it in slow circles. Before long, you’ll be swirling like a pro! For younger wines, like our 2010 ONYX or the 2010 Signature Series Block 8 Syrah, swirling makes a dramatic difference to the smell of the wine, which leads us to…


2. Smell


Smell is the reason you swirl wine. Without swirling to introduce oxygen, the smell of the wine in question will be muted. Want a demonstration? Next time you’re in the Tasting Room, try an experiment. Take the 2009 Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon and smell it without swirling first. You won’t get a whole lot of the “nose,” the lingo for a wine’s scent. Give the wine a good swirl and smell again.


Don’t be afraid to stick your nose in the glass to get the full effect! We recommend inhaling like you’re yawning with your mouth closed. Try to pick out familiar scents. Our 2009 Signature Series Merlot smells a lot like dark cherries, cedar, and raw tobacco while the 2010 Signature Series Block 8 Syrah has a nose almost like smoked maple bacon.


So why is smell so important? Well, without our sense of smell we wouldn’t be able to…


3. Sip


“Taste” is the word we actually meant, but that doesn’t start with “s.” Sip is the next step, and we do mean sip. Part of this is because wine is higher in alcohol than most beers, so for some it can be shocking. The main reason to sip, however, is to ease the flavors across your palate, which leads right into the next and arguably most important S:


4. Savor


Sipping lets this S truly shine. Your tongue is covered in taste buds, but not all taste buds are created equal. You taste savory, salty, sweet, bitter, and acid in different places on your palate, so be sure that wine touches every portion. Notice if there are any places the wine doesn’t expand. Do you taste it on the tip of your tongue but not the middle? Does the flavor disappear across the back of your palate?


Like smell, try to pick out familiar flavors. Is the wine spicy? If so, what kind of spice? Bell pepper, black pepper, or red pepper? Are there obvious fruits? Does the wine taste different on the second sip? Well, before we get to that second sip, we have to practice the final S.


5. Swallow


This isn’t a throw-away step! As you swallow, notice how the wine feels. We call this the “finish.” Does the finish linger or does it vanish? Does the wine leave behind a textural sensation? Are you satisfied or left wanting more? Feel is just as important as taste.


And that’s your first taste! Repeat these steps as needed for each wine. The 5 Ss are fine details that make wine a truly sensory experience rather than just another beverage. Don’t worry if you don’t notice many differences among wines right away. That’s the great thing about wine tasting.


It takes practice!


Veni, Vidi, Vinum!

Terra Blanca


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