How do I get the most out of my wine? Each of our five senses play a major role when it comes to tasting wine. These senses consist of our organ's special cellular structures that have receptors which respond to specific stimuli. But some are more obvious than others. Here are 5 steps to make sure you are enjoying your wines to the fullest of their potential.
Let's start with the sense of sight! There is so much that you can tell from just looking at a wine.
Start by making sure the lighting is good, and that you have a neutral background (like a white tablecloth or a sheet of paper).
- The opacity of the wine will tell you if it has been fined or filtered, or how full bodied it may be.
- The viscosity of the wine will give you hints on the alcohol content or the sweetness of the wine
- Are there bubbles? Their size and persistance can tell you about the age of the wine or the fermentation method used to make it sparkling
- But first and foremost, you can tell so much from the colour.
Tilt your glass forward at 45% angle, and have a look at the centre of the wine, and try to match this colour to the above chart. Different varietals will show in different shades. Then take a look at the outer rim where you will find a variation from the centre. The wider the variation the older the wine. Wines color will also go towards the orange hue (tawny or amber) as they age. Red wines will be paler, white whites will get darker.
Smell involves the plethora of olfactory nerves in our noses. However, with wine we often say that scent involves your mouth as well.
Smelling takes place both externally and internally. Scientifically these terms are defined as Orthonasal Olfaction and Retronasal Olfaction. Orthonasal olfaction is the external sense which happens when you bring the wine close to your nose and smell certain smells. This takes place from the orthonasal pathway i.e. directly from the nostrils. When you sniff a wine, the aromas of the wine come in contact with the smell centre which is one square inch in size and located at the top of the nasal cavity.
Retronasal olfaction which is the internal sense is when you smell the wine from your mouth. As the word explains, retro means backwards and olfaction means smell. This happens when the nose picks up the aromas that are coming from the receptors via the back of the mouth. As you inhale and exhale while drinking the wine, you continue to smell from the oral cavity which is located at the back of the throat and that is how you get the perception of the flavour of the wine. The balance between the aromas from the nose path and the mouth path is a sign of quality. Without knowing it, you were already comparing when your smelled then tasted your wine...!
It is often said that to enjoy wine, you have to have a naturally good palate. That is absolutely not true! Your palate and nose, like any other gift needs to be trained. No one is born with in built knowledge of all fragrances on earth. It needs to be learnt. And to do this, nothing is better than practice. Many sommeliers and wine professionals use tools like Le Nez du Vin.
Texture and Touch
Once you take a sip, keep the liquid on your tongue for a few seconds and push it around your mouth. How viscous does it feel? Could you compare it to full cream milk, skim milk, or light and watery? Feel the weight on your tongue. This will tell you if the wine is full bodied, medium bodied or light bodied.
Then once you have swallowed the wine, how dry does your mouth feel. High tannin wines will leave your mouth dry like you have just had a sip of a very strong cup of black tea.
And while your are tasting, don't forget to touch and feel the smoothness of your glass, its weight, and to hold it by the stem to sense the thiness of it.
The other key sense which involves enjoying the wine is the sense of taste. The sense of taste mostly involves the tongue. Even though a wine can involve so many tastes, our tongue only senses five of them which are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami which is a japanese term meaning savoury or meaty.
Taste results from a chemical coming in contact with the taste buds on the surface of the tongue. The human tongue has about 10,000 taste buds which are located in four different types of structures called papillae. These are what give a bumpy structure to the tongue. There are four papillaes which hold the taste buds and out of the four only three are involved in tasting as the papillae in the central part of the tongue lacks taste buds.
Based on theories which have been proven wrong, some said certain areas of the tongue could only taste certain tastes. In fact, all the taste buds on our tongue are capable of tasting all five tastes. The only difference is in the sensitivity to each flavour.
For a cork dork like myself, nothing is more exciting than hearing a celebratory cork pop when you open a bottle of wine, the glug of a great wine being poured from a decanter, or the clink of crystal glasses. And when you open a bottle of Champagne, don't let it pop too hard. Try to retain and let the gas go through in a delicate pffffffff...like a small wind of pleasure before celebrating!
If you would like to put the above in practice with a certified professional and develop your super taster skills, please don't hesitate to get in touch, or to Book a Masterclass with us!