The key taste areas of wine

Dorling Kindersley / 11 February 2013

Wine is an experience that calls on all of your senses, from smell and taste to sight and texture.



Getting in touch with your senses

Almost 80% of the flavours we taste come through the olfactory receptors in our nose. On its own, the tongue is only capable of tasting bitterness, sweetness, saltiness, and sourness. It is the nose that enables us to taste all the complex flavours of wine.

The spectrum of flavours in wine is so vast, and people’s individual perception of taste varies so greatly, it is hard to imagine a clear and consistent vocabulary capable of describing so many nuances. All wines, however, can be broken down into a set of components that stimulate your tongue in different ways. Being able to identify the intensity of each component in the wines that you like is the first step on the road to becoming a discriminating wine taster.

Sweetness

Sweetness (and fruitiness) is all about the level of grape sugar in the wine. Wines are made with differing levels of sugar, from dry (technically less than 4g / 0.1 oz of sugar per litre) to very sweet (50g / 1.75 oz or more).

Acidity

The presence of acidity in wine is what makes it refreshing. The more acidity a wine contains, the more your tongue and palate will feel stimulated, for what is literally a mouthwatering experience.

Tannins

Tannins are natural chemicals found in grape pips and skins – as well as in tea and tree bark – that give wines, particularly red wines, a mouth-drying astringency. This astringency can be felt not only across the tongue but also on the teeth.

Alcohol and weight

The result of the grape sugar undergoing fermentation during the winemaking process, alcohol is what gives body and weight to a wine. A wine with higher alcohol content will feel fuller or heavier on the tongue than a wine with lower alcohol. Excessive alcohol in a wine can give an unpleasant burning sensation, particularly at the back of the throat as you swallow.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.