Session 2 with our new group addressed some important components when tasting wine. We decided to look at how to tell when a wine is sweet vs. dry, how acidity plays on your palate and what effect tannins have in both the wine and your wine tasting experience.
We started out discussing sweetness and where it hits on your palate. We had the tasters take a bit of sugar and roll it around on their tongue to see where they taste sweetness. While many in our group did not experience it, we have learned that the tip of our tongue is where we usually taste sweetness. Check out the tongue diagram here.
What is sweetness in wine?
· When grapes are pressed, the juice is naturally very sweet and has a very high sugar content.
· During the fermentations process, yeast cells consume the sugar. If no sugar remains in a wine after fermentation, the wine is considered dry. Any sugar remaining is called residual sugar.
· Most table wines are considered dry, but there is a range that goes from just the tiniest bit of sweetness all the way to syrupy sweet.(Think honey)
|Testing for sweetness|
Is it sweet or fruity?
· Fruity wines have distinct aromas and flavors of fruit. You smell the fruitiness with your nose, but you can’t taste it. Even in your mouth, you are smelling the fruit as you taste the wine. (Recall the retronasal passage lesson from session one)
· Sweetness in wine is perceived on the tip of your tongue. Try this to taste the difference: As you taste a wine you think is sweet rather than fruity, plug your nose while you taste. If the wine is indeed sweet, you’ll be able to actually taste the sweetness on your tongue without confusing it with what you smell.
Sweetness, acidity and tannin all play a big roll in the overall balance in wine. To show our group how you might experience acidity in a wine we asked them to smell vinegar and to taste a lemon. Many noticed that the edges of their tongues curled up in anticipation of sourness when they smelled the vinegar. They also noticed that their mouths started salivating when they tasted the lemon. Both of these experiences are typical when we anticipate or taste acidic foods or beverages. Check out the tongue diagram here to see where you taste acid on your tongue.
To experience the sensation we get from tannins, we asked to group members to eat a walnut. The thin skins on walnuts and tea both have tannins in them, and will give you a very similar sensation to the one you get when drinking tannic red wine.
For a more in-depth discussion on acidity and tannins in wine, and their importance in wine balance, please click here!
Wines used in this session:
Viognier is a French varietal that often produces a fruity, somewhat dry wine. This was by far the group's favorite wine of the evening.
Kathryn Kennedy 2010 Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc is a varietal that tends to be on the acidic side. The acidity in this particular wine is bright, crisp and refreshing.
Rock Wall 2009 Zinfandel Contra Costa Co. Jesse's Vineyard
We chose this wine to be an example of a slightly sweet red wine. This wine ended up being a little more tannic than we expected. It did have the sweet taste we were looking for and ended up pairing well with some chocolate covered almonds at the end of the evening...Yum!
It is made with the Aglianico varietal and comes from Italy. This wine was chosen as a good example of a tannic red wine. Boy did it deliver! When it was first opened and poured it had intense tannins and really showed our group what tannins in a wine is like on our palate. This wine did open up over the evening once it was put in a decanter and although not all of the group appreciated it, some of us really enjoyed it!
Although some of these wines were a turn off to some in the group, we encouraged everyone to continue trying new things. As group leaders, we have been able to expand our palates and broaden our enjoyment of all kinds of wine!