Wine Mindfully - part three
Updated: Jul 11, 2020
In part two of Wine Mindfully, we considered the colour intensity of the wine, did the words red, amber, white, or rosé adequately describe your wine? Could you imagine its smell or even taste from looking at the colour?
To assess the smell or for the "nosing" of the aromas, pick up your glass by the stem and put your nose deep into the glass, take a good two or three powerful sniffs - think about what you smell, does it remind you of anything?
There are potentially 1,000 aroma compounds and annoyingly, you may recognise the smell but to place it eludes you, this just takes practice. It can be helpful to consider whether it falls into a fruit family such as citrus or berry, then subdivide into green or yellow fruit, red or black berry, ripe or under ripe and so on.
Flavour & Memory
What you as an individual will identify in a wines flavour profile on the nose and palate is deeply personal. Scientific research has shown that scent and taste memory are very intertwined and related to past “taste” experiences.
Therefore, taste recognition differs from person to person depending on individual experience. If you have never tasted a fresh Guava, then you would struggle to recognise it in your wine. Even if the wines flavour is dominated by a Guava like fruit character, you may identify melon instead and this is fine.
I would urge anyone who wanted to grow their wine knowledge to develop their own wine tasting language, a language of descriptions that evokes something personal. It will soon become apparent that the same grape variety triggers your brains “taste” memory which will allow you to identify a common thread between grapes and wine styles.
Now for the best part, the taste. Take a mouth-full of wine and swirl it around your palate, gums, and tongue. Consider the flavours, do they relate to the nose? Think about the wines style and structure. Is it dry, off dry or sweeter? - sweetness can be confused with ripe fruit so when bench marking sweetness it can be helpful to consider honey as sweet and anything less a version of dry, medium dry, medium sweet etc
A wine’s structure simply put, is how the wine presents on the palate. Here, the key components to look for are acidity, alcohol and tannin and oak where appropriate. In a well-balanced wine, all component parts of the wine should be in harmony.
With acidity use fresh lemon-juice as your benchmark, high acidity can be detected on the sides of the tongue by a slight salivation. Acidity is important for wine because it keeps the flavour profile fresh, balances the fruit, alcohol and body on the palate and helps a wine age and evolve successfully.
Next alcohol, this should be in balance with the other structural aspects of the wine. Meaning that the alcohol should not stand out and there should be no alcohol burn at the back of the throat regardless of the ABV % of alcohol in the wine.
Tannin is mainly associated with red wines. If you imagine leaving a pot of tea to infuse for too long, those grippy mouth drying sensations that result are tannins. The level of tannin in red wine is dependent firstly upon grape variety, for example Pinot Noir is low tannin and Cabernet Sauvignon is high tannin. Typically, tannins are more prominent in younger wine, but wine making choices and the ageing process are also influential.
With both red and white wine, the use of oak in the cellar can greatly influence its tannin structure. The age, size of barrel, type of wood and toasting level as well as the cooper’s skill all have an influence on the wine. The current trend is towards judicious oak use that does not overpower the other structural aspects of the wine, even a wine with notable tannins should still be structurally balanced and harmonious.
The aftertaste or the finish relates to the flavours, structural aspects and overall impression of the wine once it has been swallowed or in a professional wine tasting environment, spat. This stage of the tasting helps you assess a wines intensity based on the length of time the flavours stay in your mouth once the wine has left it. A harmonious, persistent finish usually suggests that the wine is of good quality.
I hope you have enjoyed the three parts of Wine Mindfully and that you gleaned some wine tasting tips. I welcome any comments and wish you mindful wine experiences.