Each of us develop our distinct taste in everything, including food, clothes, shoes and cars. Even when it comes to wine, spirits and booze, we also develop our distinct tastes. Wine tasting can be considered more of an art rather than a simple drinking activity. Also, when it comes to choosing a good wine, it can be considered subjective. The definition of a good wine depends on the taste buds and personal preference of the one who tastes it.
If you are new to wine tasting or if you do not know much about wines, you need to know the basic and essential information about wine so that you can confidently select the one that fits your palate.
Characteristics of Wine
You need to know the characteristics that can be found in all wines and how these characteristics can affect your eventual wine choice. Each of us has preferences to the taste, alcohol content and even the color of wines.
Here are the basic things you need to know about wines and how they can help you pick a good bottle.
- Sweetness – wine labels often use the terms “sweet”, “semi-sweet” or “dry”. These refer to the level of sweetness or residual sugar in wine. A wine is considered “dry” when all of the grape sugar is converted to alcohol during fermentation while a “sweet” wine still has some residual sugar. “Semisweet” wines have mild or slightly perceptible sweetness.
- Alcohol – the measurement of alcohol content in wine is through percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV), and most wines contain 11 to 13% alcohol, but the general range can be from 5.5% up to 20%. The higher the alcohol content your wine has, the more you’ll feel a warm sensation in your throat and the back of your mouth.
- Tannin – this characteristic adds, bitterness, astringency and complexity to the taste of wine. This phenolic compound is found in the skins of grapes. Tannins have the tendency to dry out the mouth, which makes this characteristic often confused with a wine’s “dryness”, which refers to the level of sweetness in wine. Red wines have higher tannin content than white wines, giving them a dry and bitter finish.
- Body – the body of a wine refers to how heavy or light it feels in your mouth. Wines can have a light body, full body or somewhere in between. Wines made from grapes in warmer regions generally have a fuller body than those made from grapes in the cooler regions. Also, red wines have a fuller body than white ones.
- Acidity – wines with high acidity will be more tart, which is usually sharp or sour and leaves a taste in the mouth that can be tangy and tingling. Wines with low acidity will have a rounder, richer or even fruitier taste.
Start with Light-Bodied Wines
When you are new to wine, it is perfectly okay to start with a sweet wine or rose wine. Just like the changing of your food preference as you mature, the wines you like will also change over time. Have your palate start out with a wine that’s sweet or semi-sweet to have your palate get accustomed to wine taste. Starting with light-bodied wines can be your first step in learning to enjoy more varieties of wine.
Work with the Tannins
As you start to explore new areas in wine taste, you are more likely to encounter wines with varying tannin content. Don’t expect to love a wine with high tannin content right away. You may be surprised by the bitterness and the “bite” of the wine.
In Australia, particularly the southern region where you can find some of the best wines in the world, there is a method that can mellow down the taste of tannins for you to enjoy exploring the taste of wine – aeration. The Australian Beer and Wine Guide recommends using aerators to let a good bottle of wine “breathe” before taking a sip for a better tasting experience. Using an aerator adds air or oxygen to the wine, making the volatile aromatic compounds in a wine evolve to expand the range of smells in a wine. It enhances the character and flavor of a good wine bottle, making the wine taste more expensive than it actually is. However, not all wines benefit from the infusion of oxygen through aeration. Some of the wines you can aerate are young, tannic reds, aged red wines and vintage port wines.
The world of wine tasting can be exciting, and will give you the opportunity to find the right drink that fits the distinct preference of your palate. As you embark on your wine and drink tasting journey, it pays to have some knowledge of the wines and spirits you’ll encounter along the way. When it comes to choosing the best wine for you, it can be a subjective matter, as your personal taste and your taste buds are the best judges of which drink is the right fit for you. Just have fun, and enjoy your wine tasting journey.