Take a Big Sip…


Our last lesson in the evaluation series was dedicated to the gustatory portion of wine tasting, ‘l’esame gustativo’—the way a wine is perceived on the palate. The human tongue is actually pretty limited as to what it can taste; we’re able to distinguish between sweet, salty, bitter, and sour, but specific flavors that we might think we’re tasting are actually only interpreted as such— they’re really coming from our noses.  Imagine eating something with a lot of flavor when you’re all stuffed up, you probably can’t taste anything, right?  It’s because you can’t breath through your nose!   Without its proper functioning, you’re going to have a hard time tasting anything— so best wait to open that bottle until you’re feeling a little bit better.

We spent the entire class going through the 11 factors we’re able to pick up on the palate.  Each of these groups has a scale of three to five terms that we choose from to best match the wine we’re evaluating.

Sweetness—a taste sensation caused by the sugars in a wine (dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet, sweet, or excessively sweet).

Alcohol—a tactile sensation caused by the alcohol percentage of a wine (light, lightly warm, medium warm, warm, or alcoholic).

Softness—a tactile sensation caused by the polyalcohols, the glycerins in a wine (sharp, scarcely soft, quite soft, soft, or velvety).

Acidity—a taste sensation determined by the presence of acids in a wine (flat, scarcely fresh, quite fresh, fresh, or acidulous).

Tannicity—(I really like saying this word) a tactile sensation caused by the presence of tannins in wine (flabby, scarcely tannic, quite tannic, tannic, or astringent).

Saltiness—a perception of salt in a wine caused by the presence of salt from organic and inorganic acids, and mineral salts (tasteless, scarcely tasty, quite tasty, tasty, or salty).

Structure—the body of a wine, all solids contained (thin, weak, full, vigorous, or heavy).

Balance—the result of the interaction between a wine’s taste and its olfactory components (unbalanced, quite balanced, or balanced).

Intensity—the impact of all substances that give a wine taste and smell (lacking, scarcely intense, quite intense, intense, or very intense).

Persistence—the length of the taste and lingering aromas of a wine on the palate, starting from the moment you swallow the wine and breathe out (short, scarcely persistent, quite persistent, persistent, or very persistent).

Quality—a measure of the synthesis of intensity and complexity in taste, tactile, and olfactory sensations (course, scarcely fine, quite fine, fine, or excellent).

Check out my previous two posts to get a more complete idea of the evaluation process, and start practicing with your friends at home!  Starting with the visual exam, move on to the olfactory analysis, and finish up with the gustatory evaluation; you’ve got the tools here you’ll need to evaluate a wine just like a sommelier.


One Response to “Take a Big Sip…”

  1. Natalie

    Thank you for this post! The breakdown of descriptions and terminology is incredibly helpful in learning how to enter a conversation about wine. It can be easy to enjoy a particular wine, but it’s even more enjoyable to be able to discuss it.