The essence of tasting is discovering the sensations; how to describe them
What it feels like: It’s a juicy explosion felt on both sides of the tongue. Think of the first moment of contact with a lemon. You can have an 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 inside that element. 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.
What it feels like: Most people experience acidity first with the juiciness, then the tannins can balance that feeling. When tannins are strong, they can completely dry your mouth and teeth.
Tastes: Tannins contribute two characteristics to red wine—astringency and bitterness. The bitterness should not be present unless these tannins are unripe. 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 rather than taste.
What it feels like: The sweetness in wines is based in the grapes and has more of a natural, fruit-based flavor. When a wine is dry, the sweetness perceived is related to the fruit flavors found in 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 that are associated with wine. White wines have citrus flavors like the ones mentioned in acidity. Red wines have flavors like raspberries, blueberries, plums, cherries blackberries or jam.
What it 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. 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 and create a balanced wine.
Remember, each wine has different levels of all of these elements. 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.
Les Kincaid is an expert in food, wine and golf and has authored a cookbook. He hosts a nationally syndicated wine radio show each Thursday from 7 to 8 p.m. You can enjoy his website or his broadcast at www.leskincaid.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org