As discussed last Thursday, many of us Winos seek to be able to better understand and articulate the wine we taste. If for nothing else, just to be able to hold our own amongst other wine drinkers. Beyond that, however, it seems the more you understand, the more you enjoy the complexity of wine and its delights.
To recap from last Thursday’s Thoroughly Wino Thursday: Let’s Talk About Taste, Part I, there are four key elements to understanding the taste of wine. The two covered last week were (1) flavor and (2) aroma and methods for identifying both when tasting wine. (Remember that word description list with things like “horse blanket” and “worn boot”??) Today’s post on taste will focus on the other two key elements – (1) body and (b) texture. Body and texture are closely related and have a lot to do with the fullness, concentration, and weight of a wine with regard to a total “mouthfeel”. (Yes, that is an official wine word – I really gotta get that Wino glossary going.)
Most of us are familiar with the general descriptions of wine as either “light”, “medium”, or “full” bodied. But what does that really mean? I have usually equated a light-bodied wine to something like a red that doesn’t have a lot of color to it, or tastes a bit watered down. And full-bodied to wine that looks kind of thick – or opaque. The Wine Bible compares the body of wine to the weights of milk. For example, a light-bodied wine might equate to skim milk while a full-bodied wine is more like whole milk. Body is, essentially, the weight of the wine in the same sense as in this example of the weight of milk.
However, the wine’s body does not have to do with the quality of the wine, the intensity of the flavor, or even the finish. A wine can be light-bodied by very intense in flavor. Similarly, a full-bodied wine’s flavor may not last long in the Wino’s mouth (the “finish”). In general, it sounds like the easiest way to think about a wine’s body is by its weight. (That milk comparison really helped me.)
A wine’s texture is often described as its “mouthfeel”, or “tactile impression it leaves in your mouth”. (The Wine Bible) Words used to describe texture are often fabrics (textures – fabrics… makes sense, eh!?!) Some examples are “flannel” (as in soft), or silky (as in smooth), or wool (as in coarse). Other texture descriptors may be syrupy or gritty. So how do you determine texture when tasting wine? Well, take a sip and roll that sip around in your mouth for a bit before swallowing it. It will help you identify not only the flavor of the wine but the texture as well.
There is of course much, much more to know about wine tasting, but this initial overview is a start! In summary, aroma, flavor, body, and texture all contribute to a wine’s taste in different ways. Next time you’re sipping a new wine, think about these elements and see if you can pick something out! To close out this two-part series, I thought I’d copy over The Wine Bible’s “Twleve Truths Wine Pros Know” with regarding to tasting wine:
- A systematic approach to tasting is critical to understanding wine and being able to remember what you tasted.
- Perceptions of a wine can be skewed by outside influences as innocent as eating a bag of M&Ms.
- The first sip is not always reliable.
- At least 80% of taste is smell.
- Swirling the wine in the glass helps you smell and therefore taste it better.
- You continue to smell a wine once it is in your mouth.
- Light, medium, and full-bodied wines feel in the mouth like skim milk, whole milk, and half-and-half, respectively.
- A full body is no guarantee of an intense flavor.
- To get the total impact of flavor, you must hold the wine in your mouth for a few seconds.
- The world’s best wines all have long finishes.
- White wines get darker in color as they get older.
- Red wines get lighter as they get older.
If nothing else, you Winos can become pros by jotting down this cheat sheet and sticking it in your wallet so that the next time you are out and about, you can apply your Wine Know knowledge easily! Now…. taste on!
[Source for all Wine Knowledge in this post is The Wine Bible.]