I've been laughed at for swirling my wine too many times, sticking my nose and face in the wine glass too far, or sipping too loudly. I'm not ashamed. That's just how I learned to drink wine.
Disclaimer - I'm no sommelier. I have read about various methods sommeliers use to taste wine, tried these methods and personally find the FIVE S's method of wine tasting is the most universally acceptable and yields the best results for me.
So, what's the FIVE S's method of wine tasting?
The FIVE S's method of wine tasting includes the process of seeing the wine, swirling the wine, smelling the wine, sipping the wine, then savoring the wine. Each one of these steps can provide clues for varietal(s) and age, but, more importantly, can help you shape your individual wine preferences and hone your skills. Just the same as practicing your dribble.
See The Wine.
Zen moment. I know. You've just opened the wine, poured a glass or two, now it's time to start observing the wine with your eyeballs. If it's a red wine, is the color of the wine purple, ruby, brown, red, or maroon? If it's a wine wine, is the color of the wine light-green, straw-like, clear, pale yellow, or light-brown?
Sommeliers can determine concentration of flavor, age of wine, growing climate by observing the color of the wine -- or, if your no sommelier, you can discover/determine the color of wine you like.
Swirl The Wine
Your brain is now anticipating wine. Taste buds tighten thinking tannins threaten. You swirl away at your wine, only to tease yourself further.
Wine glass size and shape is not just for look. The size and shape of the wine glass has a lot to do with how fast or slow the wine poured into them gets oxidized and aerated. Most big reds are served with larger wine glasses so the process of oxidizing and aerating the wine is accelerated.
Keep swirling. It's just a slight wrist move. Make sure the keep the wine in the glass.
Smell The Wine
Now that the wine is properly aerated, and natural aromas are permeating from the glass with more vigor, it's time to smell.
First - Exhale. Now, stick your nose deep into the glass until your nose is all-the-way-in. Slowly - Inhale. Think about all the aromas in the whiff of air your breathing. Is there berry, citrus, herb, floral notes - or something more? Try the process once or twice to further validate your olfactory findings.
A wine's aroma is an indicator of quality and uniqueness.
Your brain is through with these silly games of seeing the wine, swirling the wine, then smelling the wine. Anticipation is pouring over now and this next step becomes the most exciting step.
Sip The Wine
Time to get noisy. Slowly bring the wine glass to your mouth and take a sip letting the wine roll around on your tongue. Allow a small breath of air to enter your mouth to further oxidize the wine, which allows you to taste more flavors, but makes you sound as if you're a fish out-of-water sucking for air.
Red wine flavors generally include bell pepper, woody, and berry tastes. White wine flavors generally include floral, citrus, and fruit flavors.
As this point, a sommelier has built a dossier in their head about where this wine in from, what year it was produced, and what varietals it's made from. For a novice wine taster, tasting the wine is best opportunity to decide if it's enjoyable.
Now your brain is satisfied, and is thinking about the next sip, but it's now time for the last step.
Savor The Wine
Sip and savor go together. As you savor the wine, your tongue will discover sweet, salty, savory, sour, and bitter flavors as the wine rolls over it. Puckering astringency or the drying impact in your mouth, from mostly red wines, is caused by tannins in the wine.
At this point, you need to decide if you want to spit or swallow the wine. Spitting, to some, is the norm. Especially, if they are tasting hundreds of wines at a time.
How was the finish to the wine? The length of finish to a wine is an important component in determining the quality.
Is there balance to the wine? Does the wine linger? Is it hot in your throat? Are their odd flavors in your mouth? If you experience some odd flavors with a wine, try to repeat the steps above, or try another bottle from the same year before giving up. Following a process, like the FIVE S's, will help you evaluate every wine you drink in the same manner. Giving every sip equal opportunity to impress.
Next time you are sipping some wine, think about the FIVE S's method of tasting wines.