Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 18th 2014 Contents |WINE|
This week, we continue on this very broad topic of wine
tasting and appreciation. The act of tasting is generally
divided into three stages, involving, sequentially, the eye,
nose and the mouth. However, before we get into the
actual tasting, I would like to talk about the act of tast-
ing and give you some very basic information on this
WHAT IS TASTE?
Taken together, aroma, body, texture and flavour com-
prise what we commonly experience as taste. We have
already spoken about smell, now let's look at the other
elements. A wine's body is described as light, medium,
full, or some permutation in between. How do you de-
cide? Imagine the relative weights of skim milk, whole
milk and half and half in your mouth. A light bodied wine,
like skimmed milk, slides easily down your throat.
Medium-bodied wine has more viscosity, like whole
milk. A full-bodied wine seems to coat your palate, like
half and half. Body, in other words, is only about the
weight of the wine. It has nothing to do with:
1. Quality. Full-bodied wines aren't necessarily better.
2. Intensity of flavour. Full-bodied wines aren't neces-
sarily more intense in flavour. Like a great sorbet, a wine
can be light and intense.
3. Finish. Full-bodied wines don't necessarily have
flavours that last long in the mouth, what is called
Closely related to body is texture or mouth feel. A wine's
mouth feel is the tactile impressions it leaves in your
mouth. Fabrics are often used as metaphors. A wine can
be richly soft as flannel (an Australian Shiraz, for exam-
ple), as seamlessly smooth as silk (a pinot noir) or as
coarse and scratchy as wool (some southern French reds
feel this way, not necessarily a bad thing). It can also feel
syrupy, gritty or have any of dozens of other textures. In
order to assess a wine's texture, you must roll it around
in your mouth and literally feel it. Swallow too quickly and
you will miss this aspect of the wine altogether.
Flavour is much more complex and difficult to describe
than body and texture. We commonly describe our
flavour world as being composed of four basic tastes:
sweet, sour, bitter, and salty (salty is rarely or never used
in the world of wines). A new word being used to de-
scribe a taste is umami (Japanese for meaty or
savoury). Scientists, however, continue to debate
whether these tastes cover all experiences. A growing
body of data seems to suggest that taste is far more
complicated than the basic four would imply. Curiously,
ancient philosophers had their own lists, which include
ruinous, acrid and putrid --- words that occasionally come
in handy as wine descriptors, even if they aren't tastes.
For wine tasters, the basic tastes only take us so far.
What's important with wine is to describe the flavours
as specifically as possible, thereby increasing your
chances of remembering the wine. This is easier said
than done. Sometimes you taste a wine, and flavour-
wise, absolutely nothing occurs to you; the wine just
tastes like, well, wine.
One of the ways out of this frustration is to suggest
flavours as well as aromas to yourself as you are tast-
ing. In other words, as you taste, imagine as many dif-
ferent potential flavours and aromas as you can, and
then find those that fit the wine. And don't forget to
hold the wine in your mouth for a few seconds. If you
swallow too quickly (the way you would a bad tasting
medicine), you won't pick up much flavour at all.
When I taste wine, I find myself running the following
flavours and aromas through my mind. Though some
of these, like geranium or rubber boots, may seem even
off-putting characteristics to find in a wine, a tiny note
of flavour or aromas like these often makes a wine all
the more intriguing. The following flavours/aroma
schools, as I think of them, are simply the ones I use.
Start here. Once you get the hang of it, you'll probably
want to create categories of your own.
FLAVOURS AND AROMAS OF WHITE WINES
Fruits: Fresh apple, apricot, banana, coconut, grapefruit,
lemon, lime, peach, pear, dried orange peel
Butter and cream: Butter, butterscotch, caramel,
Vegetables: Bell pepper, green beans, olives, asparagus
Grains and nuts: Almond, biscuits, bread dough, hazel-
nut, yeast, roasted nuts
Spices: Cinnamon, cloves, ginger, white pepper
Flowers: Rose, honeysuckle, gardenia and geranium
Earth: Chalk, flint, grass, mineral stones, mud, clay
Barrel aromas and flavours: Oak, toast, vanilla
Other aromas and flavours: Honey, gasoline, rubber boots.
Next week i will take a break from this topic to celebrate
Indian Arrival Day---Wine tasters' style, but the following
week we will continue on this topic and I will take you
through flavours and aromas of red wines. As previously
indicated, wine appreciation is a very broad topic, and the
idea is to give you relevant information that is necessary
to fully appreciate the actual act of wine tasting.
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