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Two Women on Wine: The five S's

See, swirl, sniff, sip and swallow tell you everything

Posted: July 16, 2009 2:40 p.m.
Updated: July 17, 2009 6:06 a.m.

Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier Two Women on Wine

 

When people ask us how to judge a wine, we tell them that it's all in the senses. It's the five Ss as we call them: see, swirl, sniff, sip and swallow.

Wine awakens the senses. From the moment you see it in the glass to the last delicious sip that lingers in a complex interplay of flavors on the palate.

Let's start with the first S: "See". Before wine reaches your lips, you should notice its color in the glass. Holding the glass by the stem, tilt it away from you and over a white background, like a napkin or tablecloth.

What color do you see? A white wine can range from a light straw-green to gold and copper. A red may be a deep purplish color, ruby, or brick red. Savor the color, unless it's brown. Brown could mean the wine is spoiled.

The next S, "Swirl," is fun because it looks cool when you do it. Keep the glass on the table, hold it by the stem, and gently swirl, not slosh. As you swirl the wine, notice how quickly or slowly the wine runs down the inside of the glass. A lighter wine will run down more quickly than a bolder wine that may have a higher alcohol and sugar content.

Swirling also aerates the wine and begins to release the wine's aromas, which brings us to the third S: "Sniff." It's been said that the nose is the most discerning of the senses when it comes to wine. So stick your nose into that glass and sniff gently.

Do you smell fruit, flowers, herbs, spices, almonds, butter, leather, or other lovely aromas? Good. But don't stop with one sniff; do it a couple times to take in as much of the wine's bouquet as possible. Here's some advice: If you smell mold or anything unpleasant, the wine could be spoiled.

If the wine passes the nose test, then it's time for our fourth S: "Sip." Not a baby sip, but a nice full sip to take in enough wine to swirl around in your mouth. The idea is to move the wine over the entire tongue, because different areas of the tongue register different flavors. Swirl the wine over the gums and the sides of the mouth, too. Also try to take in a bit of air through pursed lips to aerate the wine and bring out all its flavors.

How does the wine feel in the mouth? Thick or chewy, smooth and buttery? Do you detect a sweetness? Is there a puckering sensation to indicate tannin in the wine?

After savoring the wine for a few seconds in the mouth, it's time for the final S: "Swallow". Now you experience the aftertaste or finish of the wine, which are those flavors and sensations that linger in your mouth.

We don't mind admitting that we're sensuous creatures. That's why we enjoy food and wine so much! So if you're looking for a way to bring a bit more sensuousness into your life, open a bottle of wine.

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