21 Jan HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE: Tasting Notes or Testing Notes? The Nose Knows by BoomerYearbook.comBy Boomeryearbook.com
Strawberries, cherries, leather, coffee, cinnamon, mushrooms…I thought wine was made from grapes. How do all these other aromas and flavors come into this? Such descriptions are known in the wine arena as tasting notes, and although they can be confusing they are designed to provide valuable information about a wine’s characteristics. To an amateur, those who use such terms appear to be speaking to a select group of initiated oenophiles or simply poking fun at you. Perhaps they are trying to impress you with their knowledge of the great complexities of wine or to give you a bit of vertigo.
Although it is daunting to try to perceive all the aromas/flavors depicted in some columnists tasting notes, take heart. Tasting notes really do provide a wealth of information (OK there are those who wax a bit too poetic and describe flavors such as quince, wisteria, and sawgrass …perfumes/flavors not all of us can relate to as easily as, for example, red berries). By and large, these descriptions are not all pompous displays of how many fruits, spices and flowers the reviewer knows. Most notes, whether well written, completely accurate or not, can help you understand how a wine will taste.
How? You say? First, as bizarre as it might seem, it is not just an illusion that many aromas and flavors are present in the wine. Yes, really present.
First let’s clarify the role of smell in tasting. It is indispensable. Humans perceive only four tastes: sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. Humans perceive thousands of smells…detect, identify, differentiate them. Think of eating when you have a stuffed nose. The tastes are almost non-existent. Smells color those four flavors and give us nuances and a repertoire of flavors we easily recognize ( Mmm, I smell chocolate, bacon, roast turkey..).
No, it is not with smoke and mirrors that these aromas and flavors permeate the juice of fermented grapes. How is this possible? The answer is natural law. Wine is made from grapes…we all know that. But did you realize that wine is alive? Yes alive because it contains yeasts, which are living organisms. All living organisms change over time and conditions. The same is true for wine. As the grapes ferment and then age, many molecules develop. Here’s the great scientific fact: the same molecules that make strawberries smell and taste like strawberries can be present in some wines. So when you smell cherries, leather, coffee, nutmeg…in wine, yes, you really do smell those fruits flowers and spices. Tasting notes are supposed to help you identify and therefore appreciate the multiple and seemingly unrelated tastes and smells that rush at you when you taste wine.
With the help of tasting notes and lots of practice, you begin to sense the aromas and tastes together and recognize each flavor as it unfolds in layers. The aromas are manifestations of the characteristics of the specific grape(s) and the wine made with it. Each grape varietal exhibits specific aromas called Primary aromas. Many, or even most wines are a blend of several grape varietals, each with its own set of primary aromas. This is why lots of practice tasting is key. The aromas that result from the vinifying process are called secondary aromas and they indicate the wine’s origin and style. As a wine ages and oxidizes it gains tertiary aromas. Here’s where the fun really gets rolling. Tasting regularly becomes a mind puzzle as well as a sensual pleasure. Even in the early steps you recognize, but can’t name lots of aromas / flavors…just can’t put your finger on it. Memories come rushing from your mouth and nose to your brain faster than you can say Marcel Proust.
Most of what you will taste is revealed in repeated sniffing. As you start to sense more and more aromas, you will also notice that you taste these flavors in layers that develop in your mouth. After swallowing, exhale through the nose and observe the persistent aromas. This is called retro olfaction and it gives you the rounding out of the flavors.
Count the seconds the wine flavors last in your mouth. The longer the duration, the better the wine.
Mmmm. Enjoy the road.
Heard it Through the Grapevine: Tasting Notes or Testing Notesis part of Boomer Yearbook’s continuing series of baby boomers psychological coaching tips and how to alleviate elderly problems. We believe knowledge is power. We’d love to hear what you think.
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