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Taste Wine Like a Pro in 3 Steps

You may have noticed that wine connoisseurs don't just guzzle their wine after it's poured — they take a moment to examine it first. Of course, you could enjoy wine without analyzing it at all, but there's a reason why wine is so revered around the world: Each bottle is distinctive, and slowing down to focus on what makes one wine different from another adds a whole new level to the drinking experience.

In the wine world, the three steps to tasting are known as the 3 S's: swirl, sniff, and sip. You may have seen people doing the whole swirling, sniffing, and sipping thing and wondered what it was all about. Maybe you find this approach to wine intimidating or pretentious. Here's a little secret: Once you've performed the 3 S's a few times, it starts to become second nature. You'll find yourself swirling every wine glass that's put in front of you, and in no time at all, you'll be looking like a wine pro yourself.

Let's go over each step of the 3 S's in detail so you can try this out the next time you've got a glass of wine in hand.

Swirl

Photo by Daria Milas

After wine is poured into your glass, turn it rapidly in a circular motion so that the liquid coats the glass. Swirling spreads the wine around to aerate it and release its aromas.

Are there "legs" on this wine? Legs are the streaks that form on the side of the glass after the wine is swirled. Watch as they flow back down into the liquid. More legs indicate a high alcohol content. Legs that flow more slowly mean a greater viscosity, which tells you that the wine is on the sweeter side.

Sniff

Photo by Daria Milas

Position your nose inside the glass and take a deep and fast sniff. Smelling the wine can actually tell you more about the wine than tasting it alone can, since your nose is capable of detecting thousands of scents. The aromas, or bouquet, will give you a hint of what you're in store for. What scents are you picking up on? Fruits, flowers, vegetables, spices, herbs?

Take another sniff to delve deeper into the aromas. Can you pinpoint the smells now? Maybe you're picking up blackberry, mushroom, cinnamon, tobacco…

Sip

Photo by Daria Milas

Take a slightly bigger sip than you'd normally take, then keep the wine in your mouth for a few seconds, letting it move around and saturate your taste buds. What flavors are you tasting? What does the texture (mouthfeel) feel like? How heavy is it (weight) on your tongue? Does the wine dry out your mouth (indicating a high tannin level) or make it pucker (indicating a high acidity level)? Does the wine taste balanced or does any particular quality dominate? How long does the aftertaste (finish) linger after you swallow?

Take another sip to examine the wine further. You may notice that the second sip differs from the first, which is interesting to note as well.

And now that you know how to taste like a wine pro, it's time to give it a shot. With a Tasting Room tasting kit, you'll get six different wines to practice on and evaluate. By the end of that tasting experience, you may find that swirling, sniffing, and sipping have become a natural thing to do!