The first “S” in the five “S’s” of wine tasting is sight. For fledgling winos, sight may not seem worthy of being included, but it has its benefits. A lot can be said from looking at a glass of wine. For the most part, sight comes in handy for knowing whether you have bits of cork floating around in your wine. The color and viscosity (liquid consistency) of the wine can give you an impression of what will come later when you taste it. For the wine masters, the color of the wine can not only communicate whether it is a green or red grape, but how old it is, what varietal it is, what region in the world it came from, and sometimes even how much it costs.
I’ll just give a basic idea of why color is important. The color of the wine can tell you if the wine is young and robust, or old and subtle. If the color of the wine extends all the way to the edge of the liquid, then it is a young wine, so you can expect something bold on your tongue. If the edge of the wine is clear and watery, you’ll know it will not be so pronounced in your mouth, maybe even tasting flabby or weak. When you swirl a glass of wine and it has “legs” slowly sliding down the side of the glass, what makes the legs stick to the side of the glass is the residual sugar in the wine. This is what makes the wine sweet.
Now remember, this is important: Fruity and sweet are not the same. Residual sugar is the sugar left over from fermentation that was not turned into alcohol. You’ll notice that white wines usually have higher residual sugar content than reds, especially whites like Riesling. So now, after looking at the wine for a few moments, you’ll have an idea of what characteristics to expect from the wine. Sight may not be the most important “S” in my opinion, but part of the experience in wine comes from what you expect the wine to taste like.