The Taste of Wine
Several facets explain wine’s unique flavor: acidity, sweetness, alcohol, tannin, and aroma compounds produced in fermentation.
Acidity: Wine as a beverage lies on the acidic end of the pH scale ranging from as low as 2.5 (lemon) to as high as 4.5 (greek yogurt). Wine tastes tart. It is one of the most important aspects of a balanced wine and helps with the aging. You can tell how much acidity is in wine by how much you salivate after you drink it. The acidity will take crisp, zesty, and often create citrus or unripe fruit flavors.
Sweetness: Depending on what style of wine you drink, sweetness in wine ranges from having no sugar to sweet. Wine without the sweetness is called dry. Sweetness can add body to a wine.
Alcohol: The taste of alcohol is spicy, palate-coating, and warms the back of your throat. white wines have a lower alcohol level than red wines and some dessert wines can have up to 40% alcohol. Most white wines are in the 8-11% alcohol range while most red wines are in the 11-13% range. You can test the amount of alcohol by swallowing the wine and then breathing out. The level of burning sensation will help you to pinpoint the alcohol level.
Tannin: Tannins are naturally occurring in the skins and seeds of plants. They are also found in the oak barrels and chips used to age wine. They taste bitter and contain the color that you see in the wines. Put a wet, black tea bag on your tongue for a great example of how tannin tastes. Tannins add structure and character to wine and allow them to age well. High tannins wines will make your mouth feel dry, rough and sticky. Red wines have much higher amounts of tannins than white wines because they are fermented with the skins on. It is recommended that you allow a wine to “breathe” or aerate before drinking it. The air softens the tannins, particularly in young red wines.
Body: The level of body wine has is typically entirely dependent on the varietal of grape and the influence the winemaker’s practice has on the wine. The body of wine can typically be compared to the fat levels in milk. Light body wines will feel like you are drinking skim milk, while rich and full body wines will feel like you are drinking whole milk.
Aroma Compounds: Each grape variety exhibits aroma compounds at different levels. This is why some wines smell like berries, and others smell like flowers. Another contributing factor to wine’s aromas is aging. Nearly all red wines are aged in oak, which contributes an oak barrel’s flavor compounds (like vanillan) and acts as a conduit to expose the wine to oxygen. Oxidation and aging produce a range of unique flavors to wine, including nuttiness and dried fruit/flower flavors.
WORDS USED TO DESCRIBE WINE
Fruit levels : The wine whether it is light, rich, sweet, or dry, they can all be categorized by the fruit level. We have many ways of describing fruitiness in wine but it is broken down into 2 primary categories: Fruit Forward or Savory.
This is the most commonly used term to describe a wine with dominant flavors of sweet fruit; they are bursting with sweet fruit smells.
- Red Wine Fruit Forward Terms; Sweet Raspberry, , Blackberry, Black Raisin, Baking Spices, Toffee, Vanilla and Sweet Tobacco
- White Wine Fruit Forward Terms; Baked Apple, Mango, Sweet Pineapple, Ripe Pear, Caramel, and Vanilla
Savory, earthy or herbaceous wines are the anti-thesis of fruit-forward wines. most are loaded with fruit flavors in the tart/sour/bitter spectrum.
- Red Wine Savory Terms; Cranberry, Black Currant, Olive, Sour Cherry, Dried Herbs, Leather, Tobacco, Charcoal, Tar, Gravel, Woodsmoke
- White Wine Savory Terms; Lime, Lemon, Bitter Almond, Green Apple, Apple Skin, Gooseberry, Grapefruit, Green
The Sweetness Level
Wines get their sweetness from residual sugar (RS), which is leftover glucose from grape juice that wasn’t completely fermented into alcohol. However, our sense of taste picks up sweetness in varying levels. This is into 4 levels of sweetness.
This refers to extreme dryness with no residual sugar and is usually accompanied by the presence of astringency. Red wines get astringency from tannin and from bitter fruit flavors.
White wines get astringency from a quality that sommeliers and winemakers often refer to as phenolic bitterness, which is often described like the taste of grapefruit pith or quince fruit.
Most still wines fall into the dry category, even though our taste buds might tell us differently.
This is a popular term to describe wines with a touch of residual sugar. Most off dry wines are white wines, although on rare occasions you can find high quality Italian red wines that fall into the off dry category.
Sweet wines are generally Dessert Wines and have a wide range of sweetness varying from about 3–28 grams of sugar per 5 oz glass depending on the style.
The Body Profile
Now that you have a good understanding of the 2 primary fruit categories and sweetness, you can focus on the body. There are many factors that affect how we perceive body, from alcohol level and tannin to acidity.
Light bodied wines sit in your mouth more like a delicate unsweetened iced green tea or a refreshing lemonade. They may still have a long aftertaste that tingles on your tongue but they don’t fill your mouth like whole milk does. Most light bodied wines have lower alcohol levels, lower tannin, and higher acidity. But there will always be a few exceptions.
- Red Wine Light Bodied Terms; Subtle, Delicate, Elegant, Crisp, Thin, Finesse, Bright, Floral
- White WineLight Bodied Terms; Light, Zesty, Airy, Lean, Racy, Crisp, Zippy, Austere, Long Tingly Finish, Brilliant, Lively
This term doesn’t really need to be applied to white wines, it mostly applies to red wines. Medium bodied red wines are in the middle of the spectrum between a light red with lower tannin and a full bodied red with high tannin. Medium bodied red wines are usually called “food wines”.
- Red Wine Medium Bodied Terms; Food Friendly, Moderate, Elegant, Juicy, Spicy, Fleshy, Tart, Mellow, Soft
Full bodied wines fill your palate with their texture and intensity. Alcohol and tannin act more like textures on our palate which is why they are key components of full bodied red wines. Some full bodied wines stand on their own and are better not matched with food. Conversely, a few red wines are so bold with bitter tannin that they almost need a rich fatty food (like steak) to smooth out the tannin.
- Red Wine Full Bodied Terms; Rich, Lush, Opulent, Rigid, Intense, Bold, Extracted, High Alcohol, High Tannin, Firm, Structured, Muscular, Concentrated, Hot
- White Wine Full Bodied Terms; Rich, Lush, Oily, Buttery
It’s common to pause after first tasting a red wine because of the effect the aftertaste or finish has on the flavor. The finish is often the defining factor between a mediocre and an awesome tasting wine. the common types of finishes in wines include;
This is the number one most asked for style of finish on a wine. However, smooth isn’t really detailed enough of a description to get what you might want. There are essentially 3 types of smooth finishes in wines:
- Tart Finish: This is a common style of finish on higher acidity wines. These wines begin with the tart fruit flavors and have subtle bitterness on the finish. In super premium light white wines, a tingling tart finish is considered a great quality and usually lasts up to about 15 or 20 seconds.
- Sweet Tannin Finish or Smoky Sweet Finish: This style of finish is common on oak-aged red wines.
- Dried Fruit Finish: This style of finish is often found in aged red wines and red wines that are lighter in body and made with less oak aging.
Wines are sometimes described as spicy and this trait can be more intense in the finish of a wine. The sensation of a spicy finish on a wine is a sharp burning sensation. Many of us think of this type of finish as an alcoholic burn, but this is not always the case. There are a variety of reasons why wines have a spicy finish, from the type of grape to the type of acid that’s prevalent in a wine.
Bitterness is more like an astringent feeling that has the sensation of scraping the insides of your mouth. We now know that this sensation in red wines is an interaction between proteins in our saliva and a type of tannin called “condensed tannin” that will build up on your palate over time. Bitterness on the finish is unpopular but it’s actually an amazing trait when you’re pairing wine with rich fatty foods.
- Red Wine Bitter Terms; Chewy, Muscular, Rigid, Closed, Bitter Chocolate, Baker’s Chocolate, Bitter Herbs, Austere, Angular, Harsh, Coarse, Dense
- White Wine Bitter Terms; Austere, Bitter Almond, Green Mango, Green Almond
TIME TO TASTE THE WINE.
Wine doesn’t smell or taste like grape juice ( weird right ), it’s a collection of complex and intense flavors. Wine smells and tastes like so many things that describing it can strain your everyday vocabulary. Yes, wine has its own language ( fancy much ). Good wine can be enjoyed and appreciated without saying a word. But if you want to explain to someone else why you love or hate a particular wine, it’s helpful to be familiar with the language. I posted up a few wine terminologies – https://bare20.com/?p=3175
Simple steps on how to taste wine.
- Look: A visual inspection of the wine under neutral lighting.
- Smell / sniff : Identify aromas through breathing through your nose
- Taste: Assess both the taste structure (sour, bitter, sweet) and flavors from breathing with the back of your nose)
- Think/Conclude: Develop a complete profile of a wine that can be stored in your long term memory.
A tip for a beginner – For a firm rewarding experience, it is best to concentrate on the task. The best way to do this is to make written notes, if only to scribble down the name and vintage of the wine and whether you liked it or not and why. Record your impressions in your personal wine journal so you’ll have all your notes for future reference.
Why? Cause youll know what you like. Just note what it is about the flavors that make the wine appealing or unappealing. With time, you’ll find that each glass adds new dimensions and impressions for you to ponder.
You will enhance your enjoyment. Taking notes will help you focus on the abundant characteristics of wine, enabling you to identify the aromas and flavors that make up a wine’s character.
This should help you identify a wine’s outstanding attributes or faults. As spend time mulling over what you have written. It should help you recognize which wines to choose for a truly enjoyable experience.
You’ll be pleased at how much you learn from your own reflections, and you just might discover your favorites among the abundant wines of the world.
Also you can rate your wine.
Each step in the process of tasting wine gives you another clue about the wine until you have enough information to isolate and identify each of the complex aromas and flavors.
Note down your observations , a very simple trick that will help you focus on what it is you’re seeing, sniffing, and tasting.
Initially, make sure your glass is less than half full. This way, you’ll have the confidence to tilt and swirl it without spilling the wine.
Hold the glass by its stem to prevent the wine from being warmed by your hand and to keep the glass clean. Tilt the glass away from yourself slightly so that you are looking through the rim of the liquid. If possible, hold the glass over a white background, such as a tablecloth. Check out the color, opacity, and viscosity (wine legs). . A lot of clues about a wine are buried in its appearance
Does it contain floating matter. Good red wine can be opaque, clear, or brilliant in appearance. Good whites should be at least clear, at best brilliant.
The color should be pleasing to the eye. Fine young reds show a deep, vibrant color, ranging from light purple to deep ruby. Good whites can be very light in color, though young wines will be greenish-gold, and sweet, dessert wines will be yellow-gold to amber-gold. If a wine is yellowish-brown and dull in appearance, it is either magnificently old or prematurely dead. Browning occurs in white and red wines just as it does in apples as a result of oxidation.
Carefully begin to swirl the wine in the glass. To do this, set the base of the glass on a flat surface, grasp the base of the stem with thumb and finger, and, starting slowly, push the glass in tight circles on the tabletop. Gradually increase the speed of this motion so that the wine slides up along the inner surfaces of the glass. Just a few swirls will do. Simply hold the glass by the stem, and move it in a quick, circular pattern.
Swirling may look like an affectation, but it does serve a purpose. By swirling, you mix a little air with the wine, releasing its aromatic components.
Just after the final swirl, bring the glass to your nose and take a few good sniffs to prepare your palate for the taste of the wine. The first impression is the most important; let your mind wander through memory and grasp it. What does the scent remind you of? Is it sweet or floral? If floral, what kind of flower? . When you first start smelling wine, think big to small. Are there fruits? Think of broad categories first, i.e. citrus, orchard, or tropical fruits in whites or, when tasting reds, red fruits, blue fruits, or black fruits. Getting too specific or looking for one particular note can lead to frustration. Broadly, you can divide the nose of a wine into three primary categories:
Primary Aromas are grape-derivative and include fruits, herbs, and floral notes. Secondary Aromas come from winemaking practices. The most common aromas are yeast-derivative and are most easy to spot in white wines: cheese rind, nut husk (almond, peanut), or stale beer. Tertiary Aromas come from aging, usually in bottle, or possibly in oak. These aromas are mostly savory: roasted nuts, baking spices, vanilla, autumn leaves, old tobacco, cured leather, cedar, and even coconut. Your nose will become accustomed to distinctive smells rather soon, so the first few sniffs are important ones.
The wine’s scent is called its nose, which consists of aroma and bouquet. Aroma describes the smells that come from the grape itself. As the wine ages, the aromas should evolve into a more complex bouquet of fragrances.
Scents you might encounter when tasting a white wine include apple, pear, peach, melon, grapefruit, lemon, mango, pineapple, vanilla, honey. For red wine, common aromas include blackberry, cherry, raspberry, black pepper, plum, tobacco, smoke, chocolate, mushroom, oak, coffee, and loamy earth.
The scent of pears is common in some white wine.The scent of pears is common in some white wine.
Occasionally, you might notice a “foreign” smell or an “off” odor, something strange. An unpleasant, wet cardboard smell is a sign that the wine may have been contaminated by a bad cork. A vinegary smell means oxygen has seeped into the bottle, making the wine undrinkable.
Now that you’ve looked at the wine and smelled it, it’s time for the best part – tasting it. But you don’t want to swallow it just yet. .
Well, take a small sip of the wine, holding it in your mouth. Some people slosh it around like mouthwash so that it reaches all parts of the mouth. Others draw a small amount of air into the mouth and over the wine. Let linger, let tease the senses in other wards let it settle in. The process opens the wine, releasing the aroma up into the nasal passages in the back of the throat, so you can smell the wine again.
The taste should supplement the clues provided by your nose. Ask yourself whether the wine in your mouth delivers what the nose sensed. After all, your sense of smell is much more effective and sensitive than your taste buds.
The principal tastes in wine are sweet (tasted by the tip of the tongue), sour which will taste tart (think of lemons); and bitter.
So, what does it taste like? Describe the fruit taste. Most important, do you like it? This is a good time to jot down your flavor impressions–while they are fresh in your mind.
Also think about the wine’s texture; how does it feel in your mouth? Would you describe it as silky, smooth, velvety, sharp, big, refreshing, round, rich, firm, intense, crisp, puckery, lush, creamy, lively, flat?
Does the wine have a drying effect on the sides of your mouth? Does it bite the tongue? If so, this astringency is probably tannin ( refer to the first parts of the blog ). Young red wines usually display some tannic astringency, which will dissipate and smooth out as the wine matures. If the wine you are tasting has significant tannins, making it uncomfortable to drink now, consider whether the wine seems to have enough fresh fruit character to survive in the bottle until the tannins begin to mellow.
The wine’s level of acidity should also be evaluated. Acid can feel sharp in the mouth, or it can be a fresh, tangy sensation. Good acidity lifts the flavor of the wine and gives it a fresh, lively feel. Too much acid makes the wine taste tart or sour.
If the amount of these are equal or favorable, then wine is said to be balanced.
After you’ve drawn all possible flavor out of the wine, spit it out. Spitting a wine into a “dump bucket” is perfectly acceptable when tasting. After all, you want to be able to concentrate on the wines you are tasting, not get inebriated.( this is abit tricky especially if you are in a restaurant )
After the wine has left your mouth, try to determine how long the taste sensation lingers. The aftertaste or finish.
Finally, think about the overall impression the wine has made. Did it come on strongly, and then fade quickly in the mouth? Did the aromas you smelled match the flavors you sensed when the wine was in your mouth and after the wine left your mouth? Were the various components, including fruit, alcohol, tannins, acidity, of the same magnitude; or did one element overshadow or overwhelm the others? Did the wine seem simple or one-dimensional, or did it show some complexity?
Afew random wine charts
That’s all folks till then.