With over 40 wineries ON the Monticello Wine Trail to visit for a tasting, learning to expand your palate has never been so easy—or so pleasurable. Whatever you desire—flowery, fruity, smoky or light—you are sure to find the perfect wine. However, when it comes to wine tastings, the experience should involve more than just your taste buds. We asked Stan Joynes, owner and CEO of local Valley Road Vineyards, to share some tips on how to properly taste wine. Joynes recommends the “5 S’s” of wine tasting—Seeing, Swirling, Sniffing, Sipping and Savoring.

Joynes’ breakdown of the “5 S’s:

  • See the Wine.
    Taste wine in a room that is well-lit, and if you can, hold the wine up to a white background to examine the color and clarity.
    The intensity of the color will hint to how the wine is likely to taste, and, generally, depth of color will signal intensity of flavor.
  • Swirl the Wine.
    Swirling the wine in your glass helps release the hundreds of aroma compounds that wine contains. They are so small that they float on evaporating alcohol into our noses.
    Tip: The easiest way to start swirling is to place your thumb and forefinger at the base of a stemmed wine glass while it’s sitting on a flat surface. Then, while gripping the base, move the glass in small circles. As you become more adept, try swirling without a hard surface under the glass.
  • Sniff the Wine.
    Smell is the principal sense used in wine tasting, so sniffing the wine before the initial sip is essential. The “bouquet” of a wine is the total aromatic experience it produces, and assessing a wine’s bouquet can reveal not only its strengths but also its faults, such as oxidation due to age or cork taint. Experiencing the wine’s bouquet assists you in anticipating the wine’s flavors. 
  • Sip the Wine.
    Thoroughly tasting a wine requires recognizing its full array of taste and mouthfeel attributes which involves the combination of the wine’s textures, flavors, weight and overall “structure.” To get the most out of your tasting, start by holding a sip for a few seconds just inside the front of your mouth. With lips pursed, draw in a breath and let the oxygen pass slowly over the wine. The aromatics will be excited by the body heat inside the mouth and will be transferred to your olfactory receptor site.
    Tip: To get the fullest experience of the wine’s attributes, take a larger sip and let it flow into the whole of your mouth, coating the tongue.
  • Savor the Wine.
    The “finish” refers to the sensation you get from swallowing the wine, and it is defined principally by the length of time the wine taste stays with you after you swallow. The finish sometimes provides a sensation noticeably different from the taste you got on your palate. Items to look for include an alcohol taste, which is not desirable, and tastes that dominate in a way that renders the wine unbalanced. 

Ready to put your wine tasting skills to the test? Check out Valley Road Vineyards’ Blind Tasting Event on February 16!


Lead Image: By Skip Rowland

Second Image: By Skip Rowland

Third Image: Courtesy of Valley Road Vineyards

Wine Tasting Notes: By Stan Joynes


Wine & Country celebrates elevated living in Virginia Wine Country. Wine & Country Life is a semi-annual luxury print magazine with a full digital presence. The annual Wine & Country Wedding Planner is an art book of elegant Virginia weddings. The brand includes the Wine & Country Shop in Ivy, Va. It is a beautiful lifestyle boutique that brings the pages of the magazines to life. Wine & Country tells the stories of Virginia wineries, the farm-to-table movement, luxury travel, entertaining, art and the elegant country lifestyle. Ivy Life & Style Media also provides branding, web design and PR services for the wine industry.