How Do You Taste Wine? Questions Explained by a Sommelier

June 3, 2021
How Do You Taste Wine? Questions Explained by a Sommelier

People are always asking me how to taste properly. So we include it in each of our virtual tasting classes. But we’re going to go over some frequently asked questions and answers when tasting wine….

10 Wine Tasting FAQs answered:

1) What are the 5 S’s in Wine Tasting?

For those of you who know about the “5 S’s” that’s pretty cool! It’s not super common to know about it but I think it sticks in people’s minds because they all start with the letter S!

So the 5 S’s people are referring to are:- See– look at the wine: the color, viscosity, if there’s any gas or sediment.- Swirl– oxygenate the wine to release new aromas.- Sniff– smell the wine to pick up the flavorful notes.- Swish– Swish the wine around in your mouth so that your entire palate can taste every aspect.- Swallow– You can either spit or swallow the wines at this point feeling for the heaviness of the alcohol, the texture of the wine and the length of the finish. 

When we do our wine tastings, I tack on three more S’s: SmellSip, & Savor. But to learn about those, you’ll have to sign up for our virtual tasting experience.

2) Do Wine Tasters Get Drunk?

Well, that’s a great question. The answer? Sometimes. No matter how often you spit the wine and not swallow, if you taste enough of it, your palate gets tired and the alcohol that you were tasting does get you a little tipsy. But if you DO get drunk, DO NOT DRIVE HOME.

3) What are the Four Types of Wine?

There are more than just four types of wine but these four types mostly referred to are red, white, rosé and sparkling. There’s also fortified, dessert and each of the original four categories have many individual categories. But knowing these 6 styles is important.

4) Is Wine Healthy to drink?

Wine is healthy to drink in moderation. It is true that wine does contain ethanol alcohol which is poison to the body, but there are so many healthy benefits within the skins of the grapes and the juice. You can read more about wine’s health benefits in another blog post we wrote here: The Health Benefits of a Glass of Red Wine

5) How do you know if a wine was aged in oak?

I get this question a lot, and I often get people saying “this wine smells oaky.” Wines don’t smell oaky! The toasted oak barrels provide an extra layer of flavor into the wines. What flavors do oak impart? The main flavors are vanilla, baking spices, coconut or dill. These will help you determine if a wine is aged in oak. There are also oak tannins which indicates long aging in oak, and oak helps to alter the body of the wine, giving it more breadth and more roundness.

6) Why do I get headaches when I drink wine?

This really depends on the wine. If you’re drinking a wine with residual sugar, then it’s going to be a combination of the alcohol and the sugar. Residual sugar (aka RS) is the itty bitty last bits of sugar that winemakers sometimes like to keep instead of turn into alcohol. So when a grape is picked and then begins fermentation, you can ferment it all the way to alcohol, or leave some in like 2g/l. This helps to balance any overtly alcoholic flavors in the wine as well as make a hefty wine more approachable. I do want to make this very clear IT IS NOT THE SULFUR. That’s always considered the culprit but winemaking standards have made it very hard to over sulfur your wines. In fact, there is more sulfur in white wines than red wines. Just find wines that have no RS, and drink water in between glasses!

7) How would you describe the taste of wine?

There are so many descriptors out there but here are some of the basic ones:

– Fruit flavors (stone fruits, orchard fruits, tropical fruits or berries?)

– Earthy Flavors (mineral, chalky, wet stone, forest floor, damp earth, tobacco, tomato leaf)

– Oak (baking spices, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, coconut, vanilla)

8) Does wine taste like grape?

So many people when I taste with them and ask them what they taste, they just say “grapes!” And yes, if you’re drinking Muscat or Gewurtztraminer  you may absolutely be smelling grape, they smell just like a grape soda. But most other wines have deeper flavors than just grape. So use the flavors above and think back to those other fruits to find the flavors within the wine.

9) What is a rich wine?

A rich wine is one that is filled with lots of flavor, complexity and is heavy or bold. A full bodied wine is a rich wine. Common rich varietals are Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Syrah.

10) What is the best tasting wine?

Well, obviously its AJA Vineyards Malibu Coast wines. That’s why you’re reading this article right? Check out our store and find the wine that fits your palate today!

Now that you’re a pro, sign up for our Virtual Tasting experience and taste with us! We hope to see you soon!

2 responses to “How Do You Taste Wine? Questions Explained by a Sommelier”

  1. How interesting that you mention how most wines don’t actually taste like grapes. My husband loves wine and his birthday is next week.

  2. Thank you for telling us about the different basic flavors and what flavors make those up, for wine. My husband and I love wine and it is our anniversary next week. We will find an excellent wine-tasting place to celebrate. https://www.corknknife.com/

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