Wine Appreciation Tips


Is taste subjective? You like red, your husband likes white. You like sweet, he likes dry.


From my good friend Tim Hanni, at you can gain a new understanding of the way you discover, share, and think about wine.

Humans range in taste-bud count from as few as 500 to more than 12,000. Someone with 500 tastes things differently than someone with 12,000.

People having a 500-taste bud count crave intensity and big, bold flavors. They love a 100 Point Cabernet with massive oak and tannins.

Those sporting a 12,000-taste bud count tend to like sweetness, and salt and are very sensitive about alcohol content too.


Flavor association and past experiences are tied to survival. They also signal safety for us. Try finding a poisonous fruit that contains fructose. Did you know that no harmful bacteria can live in honey? Have you ever become ill from food or beverage? Do you still consume it? Not likely.  Therefore, we are predisposed to like sweets. Sweetness is used as a crutch for liking new foods and beverages.

We also find safety in flavors we are familiar with. Can you remember a cookie or some other great-tasting food from your childhood? Of course, you can! As humans, we’re the only animal species 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 forget an aroma or a flavor.

Dry red wines have no other food or beverage flavor associations, so it is extremely rare to find someone who, when they first started to drink wine, started with a dry red wine. Thus, nearly everyone starts off liking sweeter wines, and as the body adjusts to the wonderful positive chemistry of wine, and its 1500 natural chemical compounds, the reliance, and dependence on sweetness begin to wane, thus introducing people to the flavorful world of dry red wines.

Food is the mechanism that gets people to move to dry wine.

If you want to start liking dry reds, drink more wine pairing it with familiar food, such as lasagna or a burger. Soon, your brain will start a positive association to dry red wine because it was paired with something you like and are accustomed to consuming.

You can also try a variety of wines. This enables you to experience new flavors and discover how tasty wines can be when blended. Some find the taste of dry red wine and a big steak to be delicious. For others, like me, I get a metallic finish (email me at if you want to know more about this phenomenon).


Feeling adventurous? 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 “buy into” the concept that a “red wine glass” should only be used for red wines. Try whites in them too! The same holds for “white wine glasses”, by trying reds in them as well.

Different sizes and shaped wine glasses 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 the 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 are over 10,000 different grape varieties grown in the world for making wine. Additionally, some varieties have clones of themselves.

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):

  • Grape Seeds 65%
  • Grape Stems 19%
  • Grape Skins 15%
  • Grape Juice 1%

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!

NOTE: 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 be a shared chemical between a certain apple variety and our Vignoles.


Adding to the allure of wine is how your mind processes such a delicious beverage. Before you consume any beverage, your sense of smell kicks into gear and tells you some wonderfully basic things.

  • Is the beverage safe to drink or not? Seriously, safe beverages haven’t been around for more than maybe 100 years. And that includes water!
  • After your sense of smell gives you the green light, it next tries to associate the aroma with a pleasurable experience. Or a bad one. Tossed this in the porcelain bus before. Not again!
  • Your tongue is NOT divided up between bitter, sweet, salt, acid, and umami receptors. But due to olfactory sensitivities, it does matter what areas of the tongue sense flavors and aromas first.

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.


Hindsight is 20/20. Knowing what you know now wouldn’t you agree that:

  1. Does trying wine in different shaped glasses affect the flavor and aroma of wine? Yes! Every uniquely styled wine glass will provide subtle and not-so-subtle changes in the wine complexity. You are on your own for figuring out the style of glass you like for the wines you like most.
  1. 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.
  1. With over 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, Mesoclimate, elevation, slope, human influences in pruning and vineyard maintenance, etc., etc.…etc. Throw in the harvest date too, And that week’s weather!
  1. The temperature of the wine can also affect flavor and enjoyment. Typically, the warmer it is, the more fruit and perhaps the more alcohol is noticed in the wine. And oak too! Some reds we prefer cool and some whites we prefer at room temperature, and vice versa.The cooler the wine is, the more prevalent the acids in it will be. It’s also less oaky, less fruity, and will have more tannic if it’s a red, but less alcohol too.


Take the food you like most and pair it with the wines you like most! Simple! So simple! If that doesn’t work, try adding salt and lemon to the food to balance the flavors.

Written by:
Jim Pfeifer

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