He opened a bottle of wine, and the pop echoed throughout the quiet tasting room.  

Tom Brown, the winemaker at Beans Creek Winery, was ready to relax. He stood behind the bar, poured himself a glass of wine, and you could hear the gurgle of the wine as Brown poured it into the glass. 

He looked at the wine in the glass for a few moments, swirled it, took a deep, loud sniff and then took a sip.

Brown had not noticed the lady standing beside the tasting bar.

“Quite a tasting ritual you have,” she said. “Can’t you just drink the wine?”

“Well, you can,” Brown said. “But sometimes it’s just fun to do it this way, so you can get more out of the taste.”   

“How do you do that?” she said.

“It’s easy. Just follow the four S’s: see, swirl, smell and sip,” Brown said. 

Look at the wine against something white. Its appearance tells you if the wine is white or red. Look at the “legs” of the wine. The “legs” are the droplets of wine that form on the inside of the glass. Thicker “legs” indicate a higher alcohol content. Sweeter wines are more viscous and droplets flow slower down the glass.

When you swirl the wine, oxygen interacts with it and helps the wine release its aromas. “Swirl well. It’s OK to even spill a little. Don’t spill too much, though; I call that wine abuse,” Brown said with a laugh. Swirling also prepares the wine for the next step of the tasting process.

Stick your nose into the glass and breathe in. What aromas are you picking up? Don’t try to think of “wine words” you’ve heard. Think about aromas that are familiar to you. Does the wine smell like lemon, apple, grapefruit or peach? Usually, you’ll find these flavors in white wines. Does the wine smell like plum, berries or tobacco? Red wines usually exhibit these flavors. Often, you might be able to tell if the wine has been aged in oak. Oak may add vanilla or caramel aromas to the wine.   

Take a sip and keep the wine in your mouth for a few seconds before you swallow it. You can now tell what the body of the wine is. The wine body, or the weight of the wine as it feels in your mouth, can be light, medium or full. Tasting the wine also tells you about the sweetness and acidity of the wine.

“Now, you can really taste and understand the wine,” Brown said.