See, Swish, Sniff, Slurp, Swallow (or Spit).
Chances are, you’ve probably heard more than a few opinions on the absolute best way to drink wine, but the basics are the same no matter the language. And they’re much easier than you may think.
Following these steps every time you drink a glass will help develop your palate over time, allowing you to enjoy the intricacies of each sip more. Not to mention you’ll look like a regular connoisseur, even if you can’t tell a Syrah from a spritzer.
Although we typically think of only “red” and “white” (and sometimes pink, for those Rosé lovers out there), there are many subtle variations in color based on the body, age, and type of wine.
Before you take a sip, tilt the glass and note the color and opacity of both the wine and the rim (the very edge of the pooled liquid). Can you barely see any light through it? Chances are the wine will be more tannic, that is, it will taste markedly astringent. Is the wine more orange than red? Then you’ve probably got an older vintage in your glass.
You know how everyone always says decanting “opens up” or “mellows” the wine? Well, swishing follows the same principle. It integrates oxygen into the liquid, decreasing the concentration of organic acids and polyphenols and making them less noticeable on your palate.
Swishing also coats your glass with aromatics, concentrating them around your nose when you take a sip or smell the wine, and increasing the intensity of the flavor.
Just gently swirl the wine, taking care to lightly coat the sides of the glass. Nervous about spilling? Try holding the glass on the tabletop and drawing small circles with the base.
Or, if you’re the precise type, check out the scientifically proven way to do this for the best results. Isn’t science just so much fun?
Smelling the wine allows you to prepare your palate for the flavors you may experience when you take that first sip. After you have swished, hold the glass so it covers your entire nose and take a deep breath in.
The curve of the glass will concentrate all of the volatile compounds — now evaporating from your wine — around your nose, allowing you to breathe more of the molecules in.
Inhale as many times as you need to identify the different smells. Is there a hint of bonfire behind the alcohol odor? Or maybe you smell your grandmother’s cherry cobbler?
Take note of each scent, because you’re likely to taste those same things later.
Yes, sip may have been appropriate here, as well, but you’re doing much more than that. To fully appreciate the flavor, wine must be swished around in your mouth, ensuring it touches as much of your tongue as possible.
Although it’s not true that different parts of your tongue are responsible for different tastes, different parts of your tongue are more sensitive to certain flavors. Not to mention, some areas have suffered fewer hot-coffee–related burns and are more sensitive overall.
I, however, do not necessarily suggest making a “slurping” noise while tasting your wine (although Will Lyons does it, so who are we to judge?).
Swallow (or Spit)
Chances are you’re reading this because you really enjoy wine, making the answer to the “swallow or spit” question a deceptively easy one for you.
However, keep in mind just how much wine is involved at any given tasting: with 2 ounce pours of as many as 20, 30, or 40 varieties in a short time, your intake can skyrocket to as much as 8 glasses an hour.
Can you really drink for that long and still keep your composure — and your palate — pristine? Neither can we.
Of course, if you find a wine that you particularly like, go ahead. Swallow it. Then you can fully experience the aftertaste and any flavors that may develop at the back of your palate.
After all, finding that wine that just perfectly tickles your taste buds is the whole point of the see, swish, sniff, slurp, swallow (or spit) exercise — isn’t it?
Just remember: a seasoned palate, as with anything, is perfected through practice. Take your time and concentrate on every glass of wine — even if you’re drinking it in your pajamas.
More on Wine
Remember that you must be at least 21 years old to drink in the USA and to always drink responsibly. This information is intended for informational purposes only, and not to promote the consumption of alcohol.