To fully understand why wine develops certain characteristics, you would have to have degrees in chemistry and agriculture and worked in the vineyard for many years. This article is not about why, but about how we taste and flavors that are possible in wines. Not everyone will be able to have the same results when testing wine, but will have fun in the trying!
Humans have 5 traditional senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Taste and smell are the two “chemical” related senses that determine what flavors you detect when drinking wine. Taste, a sensory function of the central nervous system, is sensed by the 9000 taste buds on the surface of the tongue. Scientists have discovered that taste is divided into four parts: bitter, salty, sour and sweet. Smell is determined by olfactory receptors in your nose. When taste and smell combine, the brain defines what the flavor is.
GENERAL WINE FACTS
Alcohol – When the alcohol content is too high, it will produce a hot or burning sensation in the nose, back in the throat and/or on the roof of the mouth.
Cork not completely in the neck of the bottle – A sign of a wine long past its prime or a wine that has maderized (see Maderized)
Corked – Mold growth, caused by bacteria eating chlorine bleached corks, produces an astringent, no flavor and harsh finish in wine. Or, it could produce a paint thinner, wet basement, dirty sock or moldy taste.
Lightstruck – Long exposure to an ultraviolet light will produce a wet cardboard taste.
Maderized – When wine is stored in too hot an environment, it bakes. Instead of a good dry wine, the flavor will be similar to Maderia wine, with a taste of almonds and candied fruit.
Oxidized – When wine is exposed to too much air, it becomes flat and weak with an unappealing flavor or color. It will turn a yellowish or brownish color and taste like vinegar.
Tannin – When wine is overexposed to the skin and seeds of grapes or left in an oak barrel too long, tannin leaves a bitter astringent taste on the tongue, gums and cheeks of the drinker. Depending on how much tannin is in the wine, it could produce a fine, round, smooth, gritty, coarse or angular tasting wine. Wine with too much tannin is called “Hard Wine”.
The next two parts of this article will discuss red and white wine facts.