Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Wine Tasting - Part Science & Part Memory
The building blocks of a wine that are most
measurable are Body, Acidity, Alcohol, Sweetness, Tannins. It takes practice, but eventually, even a novice wine drinker should be able to correctly identify each within a range; Low Med or High. The other major factor in evaluating a wine is being able to sense broad ranges of flavour compounds; these are listed in the first & second rings of the wheel. Each person will vary on their ability to ferret out a wines scent and flavour. How many taste buds are on your tongue?
Because of the way our sense of smell works, we can train our palates to evolve. Outside of extreme bitterness or rotting aromas, there are few scents to which we are biologically averse. By smelling, thinking and talking about what we drink, we can create a personal catalogue of sensory information. How many flavour and scent compounds are in your memory banks?
So why are we so strongly affected by scents? Mostly, it’s all due to physiology. Smell goes directly to an area of our brain called the limbic system, which is also a center of taste, emotion and memory. Evolutionarily speaking, that structure makes perfect sense: Once
upon a time, we had to find food in the wild. Aroma, and the way it links to pleasure and memory, helped us distinguish plants that would kill us from those that would nourish us.
A wine wheel is very helpful to remind us of the basic structure of wine and wine vocabulary. If you are new to wine tasting, start by identifying the broad terms in the two coloured rings first; earthy, fruity, oaky etc. Then, as you practice you will start to refine your senses and pick out the more specific, personal wine characters. The outer ring can be very different for different people, your tobacco may be anothers smoke. But above all, have fun, because that's the point.