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How To Train Your Palate To Taste Wine Notes

Wine tasting is so much more than taking a few sips from a glass and swishing it around your mouth. It’s an art that employs tasting skills that are honed over time.

So much of a wine’s identity is captured in the flavor. A sommelier tastes wine and tells you what grapes were used, the year it was fermented, and the region the grapes came from. Red, white, sweet, dry – a few sips tells you so much.

We’re introducing you to the incredible world of wine tasting.

Understanding Taste & Flavor

Many people use “taste” and “flavor” interchangeably, but the truth is that they’re quite different. If you’re going to a wine tasting, even as an amateur, it’s important to understand what those differences are.

The following trio of key components make up the distinction:

  • Taste is the sensory experience that’s confined solely inside your mouth to include your taste buds and tongue.
  • Aroma is the sensory experience that’s confined solely inside your nose and engages your sense of smell.
  • Flavor is the overall impression you get from the sensory experience that occurs when taste and aroma come together.

The four primary tastes include salty, sour, sweet, and bitter. When you’re tasting wine, train yourself to focus on the taste – not the flavor. Concentrate on how the wine feels in your mouth, and identify the taste sensations that you’re experiencing.

Understanding Red & White Wine

Different wines have different flavors. Reds don’t have a wide flavor profile like whites do, but this makes them more complementary to certain foods. Red wine is best paired with cheeses, pork, beef, and chocolate. The flavor tends to have a bitter note to varying degrees. Some red wines are very bitter, while others have only a hint of bitterness.

White wines have a more varied flavor profile that ranges from very sweet to quite dry. Yet each white wine has light, fruity undertones. This is more pronounced in sweeter white wines. Pair white wine with fruit, poultry, fish, and pork.

Understanding Sweet & Dry Wine

You hear of wine being sweet or dry, but what does that mean? The two terms refer to the amount of residual sugar that a wine contains after the fermentation process is complete. However, other factors, like the level of acids, affect how wine is personally perceived in terms of dry or sweet.

Wine with more residual sugar tends to be sweeter, while a wine with less residual sugar is not as sweet (also known as dry). This doesn’t mean that a dry wine can never taste sweet.

This is where understanding the difference between taste and flavor is important. Flavor is the big picture, the true essence of the wine experienced on a wider, more varied sensory level. Taste is a piece of that picture.

When tasting wine, the best thing to do is learn to trust your taste buds. Train your brain to pick up on the most delicate notes as they pass over your palate. This is a skill that’s learned and honed, so don’t give up if you don’t pick up taste right away.

Keep trying, practicing, and enjoying the experience. Sip, savor, repeat.

Understanding Wine Tasting Terms

Entire dictionaries about wine terms exist. Here’s a short glossary to help you understand key wine terms:

  • Acidic is a characteristic of wine that’s detected by a mouthwatering sensation.
  • Astringent is a white wine that’s overly tannic.
  • Balanced is when all the main components of wine (alcohol, acid, tannins, and sweetness) are composed in such a way that no single component stands out.
  • Big is when a wine has a high alcohol content or an intense flavor.
  • Bitter is the perception of tannins that results in an unpleasant bitterness and is the opposite of sweet.
  • Chocolatey is often noted in rich red wines and is a flavor that’s associated with chocolate.
  • Crisp is a pleasing acidity in wine.
  • Dry is when wine doesn’t have the perception of sweetness.
  • Rich is a pleasing sense of sweetness but not to excess.
  • Tannic wines cause a drying sensation in the mouth and over the inner cheeks, gums, teeth, and tongue.

Understanding these terms helps you effectively communicate your taste experience during your next wine tasting.

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