Swirl, Sniff, Slurp, Swish, Spit, Savor

The Wine Tasting Dance

If you’ve ever watched a sommelier tasting wine, it can look more like some sort of dance than just tasting a drink. Even more novice wine aficionados follow a variety of “dance steps” that can sometimes seem unusual or even unnecessary. While I am certain that there are those who just mimic the experts, there really is a method to the dance designed to help to make wine tasting more engaging.

When talking about wine tasting, there are countless numbers of methods, steps, suggestions and recommendations: 4 steps to wine tasting, 3 beginners steps to tasting wines, tasting wines: a 7 step process. It seems to me that the first thing to remember is to drink what you enjoy and enjoy what you drink! It can be easy, however, to fall into drinking only what you have experienced and not allow yourself to stretch into new areas. How can you know what you like if you haven’t given it a try?

The world of the grape is so varied from region to region, variety to variety, and vintage to vintage as well as the tremendous differences in the wine making process. We will cover wine regions, vintages and varieties in other blogs, but for today, let’s take a look into your experience tasting wine… perhaps even trying something new.

Following just a few steps… joining in with the dance… you can expand your wine drinking experience to help to make it more enjoyable, expand your knowledge and perhaps even discover wines you never thought you would like.

1. Swirl

You may have seen a wine drinker swirl the wine in the glass, either by holding it up by the stem or sliding it in circles on the table top. This allows you to not only see the color, but to see how it runs down the glass to see the body of the wine. The other thing that swirling does is to introduce air to the wine to help release the full flavors and aroma.

On a side note, while we will be covering glassware in a future post, it is recommended that you hold your glass by the stem or even by the foot rather than the bowl. This allows you to not only clearly see the wine you are enjoying, but also avoids changing the temperature of the wine with the warmth from your hands.

2. Sniff

Did you know you actually “taste” with your nose? What we smell has a huge impact on what we taste. Don’t be shy. Stick your nose into the glass and take a good sniff. What do you smell? Different wines will release very different smells. Do you smell fruit, herbs or flowers? How about grass, butter, meat, or even bacon? Less desirable scents that you would want to avoid could include burnt rubber, mold, or wet newspaper. Other more desirable smells might include specific fruits like lemon, lime, apple and pear. Some oaken wines may well have hints of vanilla and spice.

Take time to identify the subtle fragrances of your wine to fully enjoy the next step

3. Slurp

Yes, we said “slurp”; not necessarily the prettiest picture. Drinking while allowing air to come into your mouth at the same time, while a little noisy, will help to make certain the full flavors are released. Don’t rush to swallow!

4. Swish

Swish the wine around to note the flavors. Do you taste lemon, raspberry, coconut or mango? Is it sweet, fruity or drying in your mouth? Tasting of most wines have a beginning, middle and an end; each one revealing itself over the time of the tasting.

5. Spit (optional)

If you are simply enjoying a glass or two of wine, go ahead and drink up! If you’re doing a lot of tasting, however, it’s a good idea to spit out the wine between tastings to avoid having to be picked up off the floor… not a pretty picture…

6. Savor

Take time to really taste and remember what you are drinking. Did you enjoy it? Does it leave a pleasant taste behind? What fruits do you taste? Is it light and fruity, heavy and dry or somewhere in between? Identifying the flavors that you like, and noting those that you don’t will help you to select wines that you enjoy and also help you to appreciate a wide variety of wines.

Most importantly, as always, drink what you like.


If you have questions about wine or would like help making your selections or even for special case pricing, email Ric at wine@riostation.com. He’ll be happy to help!

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