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Wine Tasting 101
How to identify wine tastes
Here are some tips for identifying the four elements vital to wine tasting. They're not so hard to identify as you might think!
Feels like: Freshness in your mouth. It's a juicy explosion felt on both sides of the tongue. Think of the first moment of contact with a lemon. But don't focus on the taste, but rather, the reactive sensations. The uncontrollable rush of saliva that swirls around the whole mouth. The fresh juiciness that you feel in your mouth is the effect of the acidity in the wine.
Tastes: Once you can correctly identify acidity, then try and focus on the tastes. For white wines you may taste citrus fruits like lemon, orange, grapefruit. Red wines with higher acidity may also have a citrus component or taste like sour berries.
Feels like: You feel the texture of tannins all over your mouth. They can feel similar to taking a big gulp of tea that has turned cold. When tannins are strong they can completely dry your mouth and teeth. Ripe tannins should never leave a bitter aftertaste, but unripe tannins will.
Tastes: Tannins contribute two characteristics to red wine--astringency and bitterness. The bitterness should not be present unless these tannins are unripe. The cause for this is that when tannins are too young, they can create a harsh, puckery or astringent feeling in your mouth. When tannins are ripe they taste smooth, round and velvety. The key to tasting tannins is to focus on sense of touch--not the taste.
Feels like: Sweetness in wines is not a sugary artificial flavor, but more of a natural fruit-based flavor. This sensation is typically felt on the tip of the tongue. When a wine is dry, the sweetness perceived is related to the fruit flavors found in wine. Sweetness of sugar concentration doesn't normally come across unless someone is drinking a port or a late harvest wine.
Tastes: It's common to taste a subtle sweet flavor and not know exactly how to describe it. Sometimes it helps to think of fruits associated with wine. White wines have citrus flavors, and red wines have flavors like raspberries, blueberries, plums, cherries, blackberries, or jam.
Feels like: A high alcohol level in wine feels like it is somewhat burning your nose or palate. You can also feel alcohol on the middle of your tongue where it gives off a hot or warm sensation.
Tastes: You shouldn't be able to taste alcohol in wine. There aren't flavors to associate with it. However, alcohol and sweetness are connected. The more alcohol that is in a wine, the sweeter it can be perceived. Winemakers do their best to balance the alcohol with the other three wine components mentioned above to create a balanced wine.
Each wine has different levels of all of these elements. Every person has a unique palate, making each experience different. If you love acidity, or you love sweetness, or you love the texture provoked by tannins, the perception of each wine and preferences will be endless. The beauty of wine is that each one can provoke a multitude of sensations depending on the diversity of the palate. Knowing these elements of wine will give you the building blocks to identifying tastes. Savor the process!