Taste is a complex sensory experience that includes the more than the flavor discerned through one’s taste buds. The feel of wine in your mouth senses weight impacting the overall taste of wine, whether it is watery-thin or a heavier viscous feel. Other foods or liquids consumed prior to drinking wine may leave a lingering taste that can impact one’s ability to isolate and accurately judge a particular wine. It is also recommended that a wine taster judge a wine only after the first one or two sips in order to adapt to the acidity and alcohol. Even one’s sense of sight, while not directly impacting the taste, senses the color of the wine which provides an indication of its flavor and age. However, most of the overall taste of wine is actually derived from your sense of smell. All of the above sensory perceptions and conditions contribute to the overall wine tasting experience.
The color of wines varies greatly. To best determine color, wine should be poured into a clear glass against a white background. Wine color is derived from a group of pigments in grape skins. The juice in all grapes is actually the same clear color. It is important to note that the intensity of a wine’s flavor is not directly attributed to the intensity of its color. White wines are not actually white in color, but vary from shades of green to yellow to brown. Clarity is also an important factor in judging white wines. A cloudy or murky color may be indicative of some problem with the wine. Red wines typically embody a reddish color but can range from a pale shade to a deep brown red. Although clarity is not a clear indication of whether a red wine is good or bad. These two types of wines also differ in how they change color over time. White wines get darker and red wines become lighter in color as they age.
To properly smell a glass of wine, hold the glass by the stem on the table and make small, rapid circles swirling the wine to aerate it and release molecules allowing you to smell the aroma. Then holding your nose inside the glass near the wine, take several quick, short sniffs which will maximize the impression of the aroma. It is important to focus and assess the aromas immediately to best interpret the smell. After taking a sip and the wine is in your mouth, you will still continue to smell the liquid. As the wine mixes with saliva in your mouth, the aroma is released back through the bridge of your nose where some of your more exposed and sensitive nerves exist in the body. Some examples of common aromas are wood, herbs, spices, earthy, fruit, and flowers.
The feel of wine in the mouth embodies the body and texture of wine. A wine’s body can be light, medium, full or some combination thereof. Wines also embody different textures or impression of touch in your mouth. Examples of some variations in texture can be described as soft, smooth, coarse, rich, or syrupy. The best way to judge a wine’s body and texture is to swirl the liquid around your mouth for a of couple seconds, even drawing some air, to get the best impression of how it feels.
There are generally four basic flavors that are discerned by the taste buds: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Each of the four can be tasted everywhere in the mouth, although they may be perceived at varying intensities in different areas. Saltiness is a flavor typically not associated with wine. Sourness can be a desirable trait by offering a brisk, acidic taste. However, if there is a scent of vinegar, this is indicative of a spoiled wine. Many late harvest or dessert wines have a sweet taste. The sugar helps counteract the acidity keeping the wine from tasting too sweet or rich. The best sweet wines are made from concentrating the sugar in the grapes giving a natural sweetness with a complementary acid balance. Bitterness comes from alkaloids, such as contained in coffee, and is usually considered a fault in wine. However, some Italian reds are known to have a bitter taste. One example is Amarone, which is derived from the Italian word amaro (“bitter”). Such wines considered to have a bitter taste generally have a tartness or slightly astringent edge to them.
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