When you are at a tasting, would you like to at least sound like you have some descriptive knowledge?
Any time you are tasting wine there is a process to follow. First hold up your glass and look at the wine, then smell it, take a sip, then talk about it. Talk can help sort out the complex impression a good wine makes on the taster. However, talk can go too far. Some connoisseurs, or wanna be connoisseurs, may try to intimidate newcomers to the world of wine. To avoid this remember, there are only four true tastes – sweet, sour, salty and bitter.
A second point to remember is the descriptive words – dry, sweet, tart, flat, thin, full bodied, young and old. Dry and sweet are opposites and are basic qualities in all wines. Dry means that all the natural grape sugar was fermented into alcohol when the wine was made. A dry wine tastes dry – “not always my personal favorite”. Sometime I refer to as spitting cotton dry. Other descriptions- a touch of sweetness is semi dry and medium dry.
Remember, there are only four true tastes – sweet, sour, salty and bitter.
Mellow can sometimes be found on the bottle label and, depending on the vintner, may mean very sweet. Full bodied or the opposite, thin flavor, mean how the wine feels in your mouth. A thin wine can mean like water, leaving no memory of the taste. A full bodied wine lingers, leaving substance that can be more complicated. Adding the adjective, robust, suggests some muscle including a tart flavor. Tart and flat are another pair of basic descriptions that are opposites. When the grapes form in Spring, it is all acid and no sugar. As the fruit ripens, it’s acid level declines and sugar content rises. Exactly how the two balance at the time of harvest does much to determine the tartness or flatness of the final product.
Sometimes the smell of a wine can determine if you really enjoy a glass of wine. Aroma (young) and bouquet (old) is the last pair of opposites. Aroma is the smell of the grapes preserved in the wine. Bouquet is the smell that develops during and after fermentation. As wine ages, its aroma grows fainter while its bouquet becomes more pronounced. So aroma correlates with young wine and bouquet with old.
These descriptions should help to define the language of wine and allow you to gain more knowledge in what you enjoy in the wine drinking experience.