The Flavors Of Wine

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wineAlthough the four main flavors – sweet, salty, sour, and bitter are all your tongue is really capable of tasting, the long lasting impression that wine leaves in your mouth is far more complex. When you drink or taste wine, your taste buds and your sense of smell are involved, adding to the way you interpret wine overall. The flavors, aromas, and sensations that wine is comprised of provide the interaction that you taste when you sample wine.

Sweetness is something that wines are well known for. With most types of wine, grapes are responsible for the sweet taste. Grapes can contain a lot of sugar and the chemical reaction of yeast with the sugar creates alcohol.  The grapes and yeast that were used to produce the wine will leave behind a certain amount of sugar known as residual sugar, which your tongue will be able to quickly detect. Once your tongue detects the residual sugar, the stimulation of sweetness from the wine will be present in your mouth.  The amount of residual sugar is determined by the sugar content of the grapes when picked, the yeast and the length of fermentation.

Alcohol is also present in wine, although your tongue doesn’t really know how to decipher the taste of alcohol. Even though the tongue doesn’t really taste alcohol, the alcohol is present in the mouth. The alcohol found in wine will tend to dilate blood vessels and therefore intensify all of the other flavors found in the wine. After you have sampled a few types of wine, the alcohol level can easily have an effect on your taste buds, making it harder to distinguish other subtle flavors in the wine.

Another flavor characteristic is acidity, which will counterbalances the sugar. With the proper balance of acidity, the overall flavor of wine can be very pleasant.  Once you taste wine that contains it, the flavor of the acidity will be well known to your tongue. Although acidity is important in wine, too much can produce a very sour or bitter tasting wine.  With the right levels, acidity will bring the flavors of the grape and fruit alive in your mouth – providing you with the perfect taste.

Yet another effect on flavor is tannin, which are compounds called polyphenols found in the skins, seeds and stems of grapes.   Tannin is what gives wine that sensation of dryness in your mouth.  The longer the wine juice remains in contact with the skins and seeds, the higher the levels of tannins in the wine.  Tannins are vital in wine because the antioxidant component is a natural preservative.  When a wine ages, the tannins will begin to breakdown in the bottle, leaving a softer smoother mouthfeel to the wine. Generally speaking, the higher the tannin content of a wine, the more age-worthy the wine.  How tannic a wine is, that is how dry your mouth feels, depends on how young the wine is and the amount of other components present in the wine.  Not all tannic wines will improve with age.  There must be a harmonious balance between the fruit, sugar, alcohol, acidity and tannin.

The last significant flavor associated with wine is oak. Although oak isn’t put into the wine during the manufacturing process, it is actually transferred during the aging process, as most wines will spend quite a bit of time in oak barrels. Depending on how long the wine is left in the oak barrel or cask, the ability to extract the flavor will vary. Most often times, wine will be aged just enough to point where the oak taste is present – and adds the perfect enhancement to the taste.  Oak is also responsible for adding additional flavors to wine depending on the type of oak used and the age of oak barrel or cask.  These flavors can include vanilla, spice, butter, smoke, etc.

Although there are other flavors involved with the taste of wine, they aren’t usually as prevalent as those listed above. The above flavors are the most dominant in wine, and also the flavors that you need to get more familiar with. Before you try to taste wine or distinguish flavors, you should always learn as much you can about the components responsible for the flavors. This way – you will know more about what you are tasting and you’ll truly be able to appreciate all that wine offers.

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Categorized: Basics