The Importance of Sense in Wine Tasting
Serving temperature is an important variable of taste that mainly hinges on the varietal(s) that compose a particular wine. The incorrect serving temperature for a wine will adversely affect both the aroma and flavor. A crisp Sauvignon Blanc will taste flat at room temperature, and should be chilled. On the contrary, a well-aged Cabernet Sauvignon will not reveal its true complexity when served too cold.
Astringency is basically a synonym for bitterness, and is caused by excessive or unmellowed tannins. Great red wines often taste astringent in their youth, but develop into opulent masterpieces when mature.
The Chemistry of Wine Taste
Flavanoid tannins play a very important role in the taste of red wines. In contrast to this, nonflavanoid tannins are more important in the taste of white wine.
Anthocyanins play a major role in the color of red wine, but alone have little to do with taste. However, anthocyanins complex with tannins; protecting them from the aging process, which does contribute to the taste of aged wines. Along the same line of reasoning, the absence of anthocyanins in white wines helps to explain the lack astringency.
Condensed tannins (Polymerized Catechins) are the main flavanoid components of red wine that taste bitterness and astringency. The smaller the catechin molecules, the more intense the bitter and astringent sensation will be. Larger tannin molecules have little effect because they are too large to fit into the taste bud receptors on your tongue.
Another component of wine that contributes to the bitterness of white wine is caftaric acid. Although its concentrations are below the threshold value for sensation, it combines with other phenolic acids to lower the threshold. In addition, caftaric acids impact on taste and feel increases with increasing alcohol content.
Mankind’s ancient enjoyment of wine is largely derived from the fact that our senses, feelings, and preferences are the basic components of what makes us human. I hope that you believe that proper wine tasting skills are within your reach; because they certainly are.