Hello… it’s me… I was wondering if you were missing me…
Were you upset? Don’t you worry, baby! I’m back to keep on teaching you how to enjoy the Drink of the Gods. And now…
THE SMELL (IT WASN’T ME)
Admit it, at one point or another you have swirled your glass of wine just because you have seen other people do it, and it makes you feel cool and suave, like a discount James Bond. Now it’s time to back the posing with some knowledge.
Whenever a sommelier wants to identify the scents in a wine, he tries to make his job easier by giving his glass a good spin. Why is that? Well, by swirling the wine you are introducing higher amounts of oxygen into the mix, and this brings out the scents. Swirling the glass for the sake of swirling is meaningless. You have to give your wine a good sniff afterwards, so don’t be afraid to stick your nose into that glass like a terrified ostrich.
About the aromas you can find in a wine, I will not go into detail. There are around 150 different scents associated with wines, ranging from the obvious (blackberry, cherry, oak) to the bizarre (burnt rubber, leather). Also, what you smell in a wine is in no small way determined by your experience and memories. No matter how much a sommelier insists that a wine has aromas of lychee, if you have never tried one in your life there is no way for you to recognize it. But as a rule, we can categorize every single scent into three categories:
Primary aromas: those given to the wine by the grape itself. Fruits, herbs and flowers are the most common here.
Secondary aromas: are produced during the fermentation process. That is why that scents related to yeast fall in this category: bread, butter and yoghurt are just a couple of examples.
Tertiary aromas: are found on those wines that have been aged. Spices (vanilla, cinnamon, clover), leather, chocolate, tobacco are some of the aromas in this category.
THE TASTE (OF VICTORY)
The only thing that I will tell you about the taste of wine is that, if you ever try a wine that you don’t like, move on and don’t look back in anger. It is not the wine’s fault; it is not your fault either. It is just that you were not meant for each other. There is plenty more fish in the sea.
But if you are eager to know a bit more… Let me give you some hints!
The best way to learn about your taste is to classify wines by their fundamental traits and then pick what you like the best. To understand the basic characteristics of wine it’s important to learn how to taste wine.
1. Sweetness: aka “Level of Dryness”
Our human perception of sweet starts at the tip of our tongue. Often, the very first impression of a wine is its level of sweetness. To taste sweet, focus your attention on the taste buds on the tip of your tongue. Are your taste buds tingling? –an indicator of sweetness. Believe it or not, many dry wines can have a hint of sweetness to carry a larger impression of Body. If you find a wine you like has residual sugar, you may enjoy a hint (or a lot!) of sweetness in your wine. Hello moscato!
How to Taste it in Wine
- Tingling sensation on the tip of your tongue.
- Slight oily sensation in the middle of your tongue that lingers.
- Wine has a higher viscosity; wine tears on side of glass slowly (also an indicator of high ABV).
- A bone-dry wine can often be confused with a wine with high Tannin.
2. Acidity: Wrapping Your Head Around It
Acidity in food and drink is tart and zesty. Tasting acidity is often confused with the taste of higher Alcohol. Wines with higher acidity feel lighter weight. If you prefer a wine that is richer and round, you enjoy slightly less acidity.
- Tingling sensation that focuses on the front and sides of your tongue. Feels like pop rocks.
- If you rub your tongue to the roof of your mouth it feels gravelly.
- Your mouth feels wet (hehehe), like you bit into an apple.
Tannin: The Misunderstood Wine Characteristic
Tannin is often confused with Level of Dryness because tannin dries your mouth. What are wine tannins? Tannin in wine is the presence of phenolic compounds that add bitterness to a wine. Phenolics are found in the skins and seeds of wine grapes and can also be added to a wine with the use of aging in wood (oak). So how does tannin taste? Imagine putting a used black tea bag on your tongue. A wet tea bag is practically pure tannin that is bitter and has a drying sensation. Tannin tastes herbaceous and is often described as astringent. While all of these descriptors sound very negative, tannin adds balance, complexity, structure and makes a wine last longer.
How Does a High Tannin Wine Taste?
- Tastes bitter on the front inside of your mouth and along the side of your tongue.
- Tannin makes your tongue dry out.
- After you swallow you feel a lingering bitter/dry feeling in your mouth.
- Tannin can often be confused with the term “dry” because it dries your mouth out.
4. Fruit: Identifying Different Flavors
Wines are often characterized by their main fruit flavors. Tasting for fruit flavors in a wine can help you better define your preferences. For instance, wines that have strawberry notes lead into a very different set of varietal wines than enjoying wines that taste like blackberries. Additionally, the level of fruitiness that you taste in a wine leads to very different growing regions.
Tasting for fruitiness in a wine
- Red Wine: red fruits such as raspberry or dark fruits like blackberry and blueberry.
- White Wine: Lemon and Lime or Peach and Yellow Apple.
- Do you find it difficult to pick out a single fruit flavor?
- Does a wine give you stronger impressions of other flavors such as grass, bell pepper, black pepper, olive or meat?
TIME TO SAY GOODBYE
I have taught you everything I know. Now it is time for you to spread your wings and leave the nest. I know that you are scared without the firm grasp of my hand directing you through this scary world. But part of the fun is to try new wines on your own: some you’ll like, some you won’t.
And as a parting gift, a picture with my trademark Wine Pose so you too can pretend that you know about wines!!