Very few foods have the culture and mystique that surrounds wine. It has been around for centuries and over time it’s consumption has become an art form. If you’ve ever wondered what the swirling and slurping are all about, this is what you need to know to get by at your next Brooklin Wine Social.
The first thing to understand is that taste is completely subjective, and hence a good tasting wine is one that tastes good to you. End of story! Well, not quite. There are some commonly agreed upon tastes that most people would call bad: corky, vinegary, musty etc.,
Barring some unusual flavour there are a few things to consider when tasting a wine. First of all, a lot of what we “taste” comes through our nose. The tongue can sense only sweet, salt, bitter and sour. The nose can smell about 10,000 different aromas. That’s why you swirl your glass prior to your first sip, and take a big sniff of the wine. It is socially acceptable to bury your nose down into the glass bowl and inhale deeply. The swirling exposes the wine to oxygen and vapourizes a little, to really “open it up”. This is called the wine’s nose and it will give you a good warm up to what the sip will have to offer.
It is also socially acceptable to sip your wine and splash it around in your mouth like mouthwash (no gargling allowed). The reason for this is to expose all the parts of your tongue to the wine to experience all four taste areas. At an actual wine tasting you will find an urn that you can spit your wine into, instead of swallowing. There are no urns at Chateau Vezeau Wines, so you will HAVE to swallow it
At this point wine tasting descriptions can delve into their own Thesaurus. Usually a simple comparison to a familiar fruit is enough to distinguish one wine from another: Chardonnay leans towards apple flavours, while Pinot Grigio shows a bit of pear. The main difference between whites and reds being acid and tannin. Whites with high acidity are “crisp” and with low acidity are “soft”. Reds with high tannins are “firm” and with low tannin are “smooth”.
And then there is oak. What used to be a side effect of storing wine in a barrel, has turned into it’s own subculture. While there are some beautiful oak trees here in Brooklin, traditional wine making uses Hungarian, American and French toasted oaks, that all add slightly different flavours when present in a wine.
The most important thing to remember is that wine was made to enjoy. Take your time. Think about the taste and how it starts and finishes and feels in your mouth. And then invent your own outrageous descriptor for it. At the rate the Thesaurus is growing, no one will know if your faking it, or avant garde!
Ray Vezeau is the owner/operator of Chateau Vezeau Wines, a ferment on premise winery in downtown Brooklin. www.ChateauVezeauWines.com