Wine Tasting - The Sense of Smell
There are a few very important things to note when we "nose" a wine. It is suggested to first smell the wine before swirling, noticing the delicate aromas. Next, swirl the wine and smell again after it is at rest. Depending on the bouquet, you may then notice a profound difference in the odors emerging. Aroma is a smell that originates from the actual grape, with very clear cut characteristics. Aroma is most prevalent in young wines. The bouquet of a wine refers to smells generated as a result of aging; smells found particularly in mature wines that were aged in a bottle. The bouquet generally has much softer and complex characteristics than aromas. Identifying what you smell is usually the most challenging part in wine tasting. Although there are many smell categories used to describe characteristics of wine, none have been exclusively agreed upon.
Wine Tasting - The Sense of Taste
After observing your wine using the sense of sight and smell, it is then time to use your palate to identify tastes. This is far more detailed than simply tasting as we would any other beverage. We must remember to note the characteristics of the wine on all sensory areas of the tongue. Sweetness is detected on the very tip of the tongue, while bitter tastes are sensed in the extreme rear. Saltiness is sensed on the front, upper sides of the tongue, and the acidity-sour taste is sensed mainly on the sides. Some suggest focusing your attention on one sensation at a time in order to be more efficient in your taste. Try taking a sip of wine and swallowing immediately. Then try another sip, this time letting the wine work well around the palate into these sensory areas before swallowing. You will recognize a noticeable difference in the intensity of flavors!
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Basic Principles of Successful Food-Wine Pairing
The main rule to remember about pairing wine with food is that there are no rules: you should drink the wines you like with the foods you like. That being said, there are some basic guidelines that can help you maximize your enjoyment of wine-food pairing.
- Match the weight & texture of the food to the weight & texture
of the wine
Example: A light-bodied fish like sole works best with a light-bodied white wine like pinot grigio,
while a heavier-bodied
fish like salmon calls for a richer, fuller-bodied white like chardonnay.
- Balance the intensity of flavors in the food and wine
Example: A mildly flavored food like roast turkey pairs well with light-bodied white and red wines like sauvignon
blanc and Beaujolais, but in the context of a Thanksgiving dinner featuring stuffing, cranberry sauce, and other
strongly flavored side dishes, an intensely flavored white like gewürztraminer or a rich, fruity red like
syrah or zinfandel would be preferable.
- Balance tastes
The five basic tastes are sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami (the recently discovered fifth taste found in savory
foods like mushrooms, tomatoes, soy sauce, and aged cheeses and meats). Salty and sour tastes in food make wines
taste milder (fruitier and less acidic), while sweet and savory (umami) tastes make wines taste stronger (drier
and more astringent).
Example: A simple cut of beef tames the tannins and brings out the fruit of a young cabernet sauvignon, but chocolate
(which some people enjoy with cabernet) will accentuate its tannins and diminish its fruit. Seasonings, such as salt,
lemon, vinegar, and mustard, can be used to achieve balance in food-wine pairings, either to make the wine taste
milder (salt, lemon, vinegar) or stronger (sugar or umami ingredients).
- Match flavors
Flavors are combinations of tastes and aromas, and there are an infinite number of them. You can fine-tune food and
wine pairings by matching flavors in the food and the wine.
Example: Roast duck in a plum sauce is well-served by red wines, like barbera or syrah, with pronounced black plum
flavors while grilled steak in a pepper sauce will go beautifully with a peppery zinfandel.
- Counterpoint flavors
Sometimes, the best choice is to counterpoint flavors rather than matching them.
Example: Pairing a spicy dish like Jamaican Jerk Chicken with a high-alcohol red wine may seem
logical, but, in fact, the heat in the dish will ignite the alcohol in the wine to produce an unpleasantly hot,
A better choice is a low-alcohol, fruity wine like riesling or gewürztraminer, which will both frame and tame
the spicy flavors of the dish.