Five Simple Tips for Beginning Wine Tasters

If you’ve never gone wine tasting before, you might feel a little intimidated by the whole process. But it’s really very simple—and lots of fun!

You’ll find that the friendly, family-owned vineyards along the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail are a great place to learn in a casual and relaxed environment. Tom Moller, owner of Satori Cellars in Gilroy, encourages first-time tasters to “Relax, enjoy…and don’t be afraid to ask questions!”

To get started, just remember the five “S’s” of wine tasting:

  1. See
    Hold your glass up to the light and look closely at the wine’s clarity and color. If it’s a red wine, is it a deep burgundy or bright ruby-red? White wines can vary from almost clear to pale green-yellow to deep gold. All of these provide clues to the varietal (type of grape) and age of the wine. The intensity of color can also indicate the intensity of flavor.
  2. Swirl
    This isn’t something you do just to be pretentious. Tilting your glass and swirling gently allows the wine to “breathe” and helps enhance its flavor and natural aroma. As you become a more experienced taster, you might also observe how the wine hits the sides of the glass and then falls back down. This is called the “legs” and indicates how full-bodied the wine is.
  3. Sniff
    Raise the glass to your nose and take a quick whiff. Then sniff deeply and close your eyes to really focus on your sense of smell. See if you can detect any specific aromas—they can range from fruity or flowery to spicy, woodsy, or earthy. You might detect a hint of vanilla, almond, or citrus scents. Try to characterize the bouquet before you taste the wine, and compare your impressions with those of your companions.
  4. Sip
    At last, you get to the tasting part of wine tasting! Take a small sip and let the wine roll around your tongue. Then take a small breath to allow the oxygen to mix with the wine in your mouth. Does the flavor match what you expected based on the smell? Does it taste smooth and creamy or light and crisp? Fruity and sweet or dry and heavy?
  5. Savor
    After the initial impression, swirl the wine around in your mouth to let the flavors fully develop on your palate. Pay attention to the “evolution” phase, when you might pick up on other, more subtle flavors due to the particular blend of grapes used in the wine. You can choose to either swallow or spit out the wine after tasting. Either way, pay attention to the “finish.” How long does the flavor linger in your mouth? And, perhaps most importantly, does it inspire you to take another sip?

Hopefully these tips will inspire you to hit the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail and give wine tasting a try. Download a Wine Trail Map from the website or stop by the Gilroy Welcome Center and start planning your own tasting adventure today!

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