The Science of Wine Tasting

There is a great deal of science that goes into the making of wine.tasting2

Of course, it begins in the vineyard with the choice of rootstocks, grafting, training and trellising, canopy management, pruning methods, growth regulators, frost protection and so on.

It then continues in the cellar with considerations such as must concentration, pressing, malolactic fermentation, fining, racking, blending, aging, bottle closures and so much more.

All of that work… all of those decisions… in the vineyard and in the cellar contribute to producing a product that we take great joy in consuming, often without giving how it was made a second thought. After all, wine is a beverage to be enjoyed. And yet, it also lends itself to pondering.

So if you are the pondering type, you should know that a great deal of science also goes into the wine-drinking experience. It’s something that an ear, nose and throat doctor — or even a good high school biology student — would probably be better equipped to explain than I, but I’ll give it my best shot.

Enjoyment of wine involves three senses: sight, smell and taste.

Some would argue that sight should not be included on that list, but I disagree. The color of the wine provides certain clues about how it was made and its age. That said, smell and taste certainly are the key senses involved when experiencing wine scientifically.

“There are actually two ways you smell your wine — externally and internally,” explains Lori Budd in a blog for Dracaena Wines. “The external sense is called orthonasal olfaction. This is what is being used when you place your nose in the glass.

“The second smell, known as retronasal olfaction, is from inside the mouth. It actually means reverse smell. This is what gives you the perception of flavor.  When you say you ‘taste’ cherry, in reality you are smelling cherry. We are not able to taste cherry. This is why we swoosh the wine around our mouth. It is not to ‘taste’ the flavors, but rather to “smell” the flavors.

There also is a great deal of science involved in tasting wine.

“Taste is what occurs on the tongue,” Budd writes. “There are only five things that we can taste. These include sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami… In terms of wine, we focus in on only three of these categories. Sugar cannot be detected when it is less than 1 percent. Sour comes from the acid in the wine and is described as tart. Bitterness comes from the tannins created by the seeds and skin and provides an astringent mouthfeel.”

So, the next time you pour a glass of wine, check out its color, breathe in its aroma, and concentrate on its flavors — if you are so inclined.

What it boils down do is that tasting wine could be considered a science, but, thankfully, you don’t need to be a scientist to enjoy the gift of the grape.


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Posted in Wine Buzz, Wine in the Glass
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