Jeff’s Corner

Well, here I am behind the eye ball again after some more exciting surgery. My left eye is filled with a gas balloon, and I am indeed feeling a bit light-headed. So, we’ll check out our new Riesling next week, and in the interim here’s a story about how we taste wine that I wrote for the Georgetown newspaper a few years ago. It might have snuck into Jeff’s Corner as well.

Howdy, and here we go again…

We talk a lot about the “flavor” of wine, but “flavor” is an elusive concept. We talk about the flavor being great, or being terrible, or that one wine’s flavor is better than another wine’s flavor. But, we rarely think about what exactly contributes to the “flavor” of a wine.

Well, you guessed it, today we’re going to talk about what contributes to the flavor of a wine. A few months ago, I completed a pretty intense 40 hour wine class on line. It taught me that one way to think about the “flavor” of wine is to view it as the sum of three things: aroma, taste, and mouthfeel. Let’s check these out.

Aroma, like I mentioned a few stories ago in Jeff’s Corner on our Grape Creek Facebook page, is very subjective and complex. It’s hard to describe what something smells like. Peopl\ comment that they remember faces but not names, and in much the same way we remember smells without being able to associate that smell with a name.

White wine smells like white fruit (peaches, pears, pineapple, and apples); while red wine smells like red fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries). In reds, we also find aromas from oak, vanilla being one of the most pronounced.

Taste is more objective. Our oral cavity is covered with taste buds, but we really only perceive four different taste sensations; sweet, sour, salt, and bitter. Throw salt over your shoulder, it’s not part of wine. That means that what we taste is a combination of sweet (sugar), sour (acid), and bitterness (tannin). These are all combined with aromas to influence what we taste.

Mouthfeel is also pretty objective, but to understand it we have to learn to think about what’s happening on our palate after we swallow the wine. Mouthfeel results from the effect of alcohol, tannin, and viscosity.

Alcohol has a warming sensation in our mouth and chest cavity. We can understand this perception a little easier if we think about the warmth we experience from a shot of bourbon. Tannin dries out our mouth, it’s very astringent. This astringency gives us texture (mouthfeel), while tasting bitter.

Viscosity is what determines the “finish” of a wine, which is how long we taste it after we swallow. Viscosity, or finish, results from alcohol, glycerol, and sugar. The more of these, in whatever combination, the longer the wine lingers after it’s gone. Think of drinking skim milk, whole milk, or heavy cream.

Wow! This is lots of info, but if we take baby steps and think about aroma, taste, and mouthfeel as component parts of tasting wine, we’ll soon learn to piece together the entire package, flavor.