Step 4: Sipping
When you take your first sip, what you taste is a combination of the actual flavors of the wine, as well as the scent because taste is heavily influenced by smell.
“The first question to ask yourself: Do you like it? Or do you not like it?” says Sbrocco. Then try to identify the different flavors you've smelled, along with characteristics such as sweetness, tanginess and alcohol content.
How to Put Those "4 S's" to Good Use
The information derived from the process of seeing, swirling, smelling and sipping is most helpful if it’s documented. By recording your thoughts on the wine you’ve sampled, you’ll start to identify patterns in wines you’ve enjoyed--and ones that have missed the mark.
Sbrocco herself takes photos of wines she’s tried on her smartphone, and then she sends herself an email with additional notes. You can try an app like Hello Vino, which lets you take a photo of the bottle and add such information as year, price, rating, sweetness, smell and alcohol content.
So now that you know why trying as many wines as possible is so important, the next question is: What's the most cost-effective way to taste-test new bottles?
“Many wine shops have free tastings,” says Sbrocco. “This is a great way to try new bottles, and learn from professionals with a lot of experience.”
Another fun idea is to form your own tasting group--if everyone brings a bottle, you can try a number of different wines and compare notes. “Organize monthly tastings around themes,” says Sbrocco. “You can make it as broad as ‘red wine' or you can go more specific, like ‘wines from California.’”
They key is to sample different varieties of reds and whites from varied countries. Sbrocco recommends the following picks, which encompass a spectrum of flavors, from light and juicy to full-bodied and heavy.
To get you started with some affordable picks, Sbrocco has selected five of her recent favorites, including two bonus sparkling wines:
- 2011 Gainey "Limited Selection" Riesling, Santa Ynez Valley, California -- $15
- 2011 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages, Beaujolais, France -- $12
- 2010 Concha y Toro "Casillero Del Diablo," Carmenere, Chile -- $10
- Segura Viudas Brut Reserva, Cava, Spain -- $10
- 2011 Medici Ermete "Concerto," Lambrusco, Italy -- $11