Wine Appreciation Tips
TASTE AND HOW IT WORKS!
Taste is subjective or is it?! You like red, but your husband likes white. You like sweet, and he likes dry. Or something like that. Why? Two reasons. First, from my good friend Tim Hanni, at www.timhanni.com. Humans range in taste bud count from as few as 500 to more than 12,000. So, do you think that someone at 500 taste buds tastes things differently than someone at 12,000? Absolutely! Folks with 12,000 taste buds tend to really, really like sweetness and salt. And don’t be surprised if they cut tags out of clothing either! And they’re very sensitive about alcohol content too! At 500 taste buds, those folks crave intensity and big, bold flavors! Bring on the 100 Point Cabernet with massive oak and tannins! Clothing tags? They’re mostly fine. Why are you griping about them? Check out Tim’s site for more info!
Flavor association and past experiences are tied to survival. Our bodies naturally crave simple carbohydrates because, quite frankly, for thousands of years, they’ve been tough to come by. But they also signal safety! Try finding a poisonous fruit that contains fructose. Did you know that no harmful bacteria can live in honey? Therefore, for several reasons, we are predisposed to like sweet. Also, have you ever gotten sick off of a food or beverage? Do you still consume it? I thought not! Or, if you do, you had to retrain you taste buds! We also find safety in flavors we are familiar with. Can you remember a cookie or something else great tasting from your childhood? Of course you can! As humans, we’re the only animal specie that can’t drink out of a puddle without getting sick. Think about that! From a consumption standpoint we are constantly building a flavor and aroma library of likes and dislikes, so we never, ever forget an aroma or a flavor. How about opening a can of fresh tennis balls? Can you remember how that smells? And sweetness is used as a crutch for liking new foods and beverages. I’ll guarantee you this, because dry red wines have no other food or beverage flavor associations, it is extremely rare to find someone who, when they first started to drink wine, started with dry red wine. Nearly everyone starts off liking sweeter wines, and as the body adjusts to the wonderful positive chemistry of wine (1500 natural chemical compounds with nearly all the essential vitamins and minerals you need) for some, the reliance and dependence (or crutch) for sweetness starts to wane, thus opening up to them the flavorful world of the associated dry red wines. Some who drink black tea or unsweetened coffee first started out with sweeter tea and coffee. And, going back to Tim’s research, some never leave sweet tea or sweetened coffee. If you want to start liking dry reds, try drinking more wine! Or, pairing it with a familiar food, such as lasagna or a burger. Your brain will start a positive association to dry red wine because it was paired with something you like and you are accustomed to consuming. Food is the mechanism that gets people to move to dry wine. If you want to learn more, check out
2. Try a variety of wines. This enables you to experience new flavors and discover how they blend together. Definitely try with food. By the way, for some, the taste of a dry red wine and a big steak is delicious. For others, like me, I get a metallic finish. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org you want to know more about that phenomenon.
3. Try the same wine out of different shaped glasses. Stemware is an important aspect of wine and can greatly influence the aromas and flavors in the wine. Don’t necessarily “buy into” the concept that a “red wine glass” should only be used for red wines. Try whites in them too! The same holds true for “white wine glasses” by trying reds in them as well. Different size and shape wine glasses simply change the volumetric pressure and vapor pressure of the wine. Naturally, without thinking, you will shape your lips differently to adjust to the shape of the glass. Additionally, you will naturally position and shape your tongue according to the shape of the glass. These are the basic differences unique shapes of glasses provide you as a taster.
From a sensory standpoint, most of the flavor you experience will come from aromatics, so the glass shape will affect the aromas you experience before you taste the wine as you breathe in through the nose before sipping, and the aromas you experience once wine starts to vaporize on your tongue (most of what you supposedly taste is aromatics vaporizing and sensitizing the backside of your olfactory nerve.
There’s a lot to it!!!
First, did you know there are over 10,000 different grape varieties grown in the world for making wine? Additionally some varieties have clones of those varieties. For instance, our cabernet franc that we grow is clone 347. Wow, so many choices….
If you made wine from 100% of the grapes, here is where the wine would get the flavors (approximate percentages)
With white wine, all we care about is the juice, the 1%.With reds, we carefully manage the 1% while adding the effects of the grape skins (the 15%)
Ever notice when you try wines made from grapes that you’ll pick up flavors of strawberry, cherry, apple, blackberry and so forth? Did we add those flavors to the wines? Not a chance! Here’s a cool fact about wine. As I mentioned before, if you can believe this, there are more than 1500 natural chemical compounds that exist in a bottle of wine. Many natural chemical compounds are shared between plants. And some with animals. Therefore, that apple taste you find in our vignoles may in fact be a shared chemical between a certain apple variety and our vignoles. Cool, huh?
The Mind Games wine will play on you.
Adding to the allure of wine is how your mind processes such a wonderful beverage. Before you consume any beverage, your sense of smell kicks into gear and tells you a couple of wonderfully basic things. First, is the beverage safe to drink or not? Seriously, we’re not that far removed in the course of human existence from hunting and gathering and safe beverages haven’t been around for more than maybe 100 years. And that includes water! Second, after your sense of smell gives you the green light, next it tries to associate the aroma with a pleasurable experience. Or a bad experience. Tossed this in the porcelain bus before. Not again!
Next, your tongue is NOT divided up between bitter, sweet, salt, acid and umami receptors. But, however, due to olfactory sensitivities, what areas of the tongue sense flavors and aromas first (did the wine pour into the center or sides of the tongue due to the shape of the glass) will have an effect on the flavors you experience. And this is down to nanosecond differences, by the way
So here we go, a body in constant survival mode, sensing for safety and past experiences constantly, taking in a beverage with over 1500 natural chemical compounds, many of them shared with other plants. Therefore, wouldn’t you agree that…
- 1.Trying a wine in a different shaped glass will affect the flavor and aroma of wine? Every uniquely styled wine glass will provide subtle and not so subtle changes in the wine complexity. But you are on your own for figuring out the style of glass you like for the wines you like the most.
- 2.The art of a great wine may not exist in a single variety, such as cabernet sauvignon, but rather in how the winery blends different wines to create more complexity.
- 3.With 1500 natural chemical compounds, everything counts – the grape variety, where it’s grown, the weather for that year, the yearly vineyard maintenance and the harvest parameters. For you folks who know wine, that’s called terroir, and I live for it! Terroir is soil type, climate, microclimate, meso-climate, elevation, slope, human influences in pruning and vineyard maintenance, etc, etc…and etc. Throw in the harvest date too, as well as that week’s weather!
- 4.The temperature of the wine affects the flavor and enjoyment. Typically, the warmer it is, the more fruit and perhaps the more the alcohol is noticed in the wine. And oak! Some reds we prefer cool and some whites we prefer at room temperature and vice versa.
- The cooler the wine is, the more the acids will be prevalent in the wines. And less oaky, and less fruity, and more tannic if it’s a red. But, less alcoholic too, which can be a good thing for many folks.
- The best food and wine recommendation that exists is this: Take the food you like most and pair it with the wines you like most! Simple! So simple! However…
- If that doesn’t work, try adding salt and lemon to the food to balance the flavors. Tim Hanni taught me that, and it’s spot, spot on!