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 (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).
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 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.
A Little Course In... Wine Tasting
A Little Course In... Wine Tasting explains tasting techniques and wine styles, quickly building confidence and skill. A series of tasting sessions build your knowledge - nothing's assumed and everything's explained. Packed with advice, reminders and insider tips, it will quickly turn you into a discerning wine drinker. Out now, published by Dorling Kindersley.