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Be Wine Tasting Savvy with the 5 Ss

alanbrady winetasting

As the most visited winery in New Zealand, we think we know a thing or two about wine tasting here at Gibbston Valley. For the oenophiles working at our cellar door, the 5 S's of wine tasting are second nature, but we know not everyone shares our prowess for drinking Pinot Noirs.

Swirling and slurping, probably sound like a surefire way to offend anyone around you, but these are all part of being able to taste and understand wine. Here's a simple break down of these 5 easy steps to help you get the most from your wine tasting experience, whether it's with us during your next trip to Queenstown, another winery or you're enjoying a bottle at home.

1. See

Don’t judge a book by its cover, as the adage goes, but in the case of wine, look away. Taking note of a wine’s colour, clarity and other visible attributes is anything but superficial. All of these characteristics are indications of what you’re about to taste.

For the best view, pour your wine into a glass and hold the glass up to the light. Take note of the hue, intensity and clarity. Each of these characteristics suggests different aspects of a wine’s quality and character.

2. Swirl

If you aren’t familiar with typical wine tasting etiquette and you see someone swirling their glass, you might just think, “wine snob.” However, there’s a reason for swooshing wine around the glass before you drink it. By swirling your wine, you are helping get oxygen to it. This process, called aerating, lets the wine breathe and releases a range of aromas and other traits.

The best way to do this is to hold the stem of the wine glass and swirl the contents around while the glass is either on the table or while gently holding it. While swirling the wine, take note of how it hits the side of the glass and falls back down. This is called the “legs” of the wine and can help indicate a how full-bodied the wine is.

3. Sniff

After the swirling, it’s time to take a sniff. A lot about a wine can be determined by how it smells. The aromas that you detect are influenced by your choice of wine and your memory. Some people say that your ability to detect and even taste certain aromas in wine is linked to the foods you are familiar with from your childhood.

To get a good whiff, let the wine stop swirling and tilt your glass so that your nose is hovering over the wine and close to the center of the rim. Sniff the wine a few times and try to ask yourself some of the following questions: Is the aroma enjoyable? Can you recognize any specific aromas? Is it fruity? Is it earthy? And the list goes on. All of these things are indications are what you might taste in the next step.

4. Sip

Finally, what you’ve been waiting for, but whatever you do, no guzzling down the whole thing in one swig. You can save that for those shots at the bar later tonight. Wine tasting is slow and delicate. When you take a sip let the wine coat your entire tongue. 

If you really want to look like a pro, try sucking in some oxygen at the same time. You may make a slight gurgling noise, but this is a normal part of wine tasting. This process helps bring out the most flavours. However, if you don’t want to draw attention to yourself, you can leave the sucking for someone else. Whatever you decide, make sure to take note of everything you taste in each sip, which leads us to the last step.

5. Savour

Now that you’ve had some wine, take the time to savour each sip and really enjoy the complexities of what you’ve just tasted. Spitting is always an option of you really detest what’s in your glass or don’t want to get influenced by the alcohol. For the ultimate flavor experience, exhale lightly through your nose. 

The “finish,” as it’s known, is the aftertaste. The “length” is the amount of time that the flavor lingers. Good wines have a nice finish and length. Low quality wines have little aftertaste.

Armed with these 5 steps you can now go forth and conquer any wine tasting adventure. 

If you're interested in tasting wine at Gibbston Valley, we offer a range of tasting options at our Cellar Door where you can sample our range of current release and Single Vineyard Wines.

See Wine Tasting Options

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