The taste of wine: its mouth aromas
Taste is the set of taste- giving, tactile and olfactory retronasal sensations , the so-called “ mouth flavors ”. There are four flavor sensations. The sweetness is felt on the tip of the tongue and depends on the residual sugars, not transformed into alcohol during fermentation. The acidity , felt on the lateral areas of the tongue , manifests itself with a different degree of salivation, due to the property that the acids (tartaric, malic, lactic, etc.) have to slightly irritate the mucous membranes. A wine with good acidity is defined as fresh . Total acidity decreases during aging , which is why it is easier to talk about freshness in a young wine. On the other hand, it represents a fundamental gift for a wine to age. The savory sensations are also felt in the lateral areas of the tongue and, only if sufficiently supported by acidity, are they pleasant and confer “mineral” impressions .
The bitterness is felt at the base of the tongue and derives mainly from organic substances (caffeine, quinine, etc.) and from poorly polymerized or oxidized polyphenolic substances (tannins). It is only acceptable in the form of a slightly bitter or bitter sensation , otherwise it represents an anomaly. The tactile sensations are perceived by the mucous membranes arranged throughout the oral cavity and by the papillae in the center of the tongue. Among these we remember the pseudocaloric sensation due to alcohol, which generates heat and causticity due to the dehydration of the mucous membranes. A wine with a good alcoholic quality is defined as warm and the greater the structure of the wine, the lower the pseudocaloric sensation.
Astringency is determined by the presence of tannins that generate dryness and roughness. These elements are present in the grapes, in particular in the skins and pips , or are extracted from the wood of the barrels . A wine characterized by a strong sensation of astringency is defined as tannic. Tannins, like acidity , alcohol content and structure in general, are important for aging, during which they tend to smooth out, giving more rounded sensations. The thermal sensation is due to the perception of the wine temperature. Each wine should be drunk at an ideal temperature , such as to enhance or attenuate the flavors: sweetness and softness are more perceptible with increasing temperature, while savory and bitter flavors are more pronounced at low temperatures.
The acidity is only indirectly influenced by the thermal variations , given that the exaltation of the soft flavors attenuates it and vice versa. This is why white wines , characterized by fresh-savory sensations, prefer lower serving temperatures than red wines. Finally, we recall the tactile sensation of pungency due to the presence of carbon dioxide, the sensation of softness generated by the polyalcohols produced during fermentation (glycerin) and the sensation of consistency that allows us to perceive the structure of the wine, i.e. the set of components non-volatile (sugars, glycerin, fixed acids, polyphenols, mineral salts, etc.) that make up the backbone , or dry extract.
As already mentioned, the taste of wine is not made up only of gustatory sensations, but also of aromas , perceived indirectly after swallowing. These sensations are called olfactory retronasal. The olfactory , tactile and retronasal sensations , however, must be evaluated in relation to their balance , that is, to the way in which they are opposed. A wine is defined balanced when the soft parts - sugars, alcohols and polyalcohols - and the hard parts - acids, tannins (in red wines) and mineral salts - are in the right proportion. In evaluating a young wine , white or red, a slight predominance of the hard part over the soft one is certainly acceptable, vice versa for mature wines .
The final phase of the tasting examines, as in the olfactory analysis, intensity, persistence and gustatory quality . At the basis of the evaluation there are no longer simply the aromas, but the set of sensations felt in the mouth. Aromatic persistence is a particularly important aspect in the overall evaluation . It concerns the different permanence of the gustatory and above all retro-olfactory sensations on the palate after swallowing ; it is evaluated in seconds, from 4/6 for a good wine to 10 and more for a great “champion”.
The wine tells its story to those who know how to listen to it: the pleasantness of its fruit , the harmony that binds its garment to the aromas and flavors, the affinity with the terroir , the memory it leaves of itself, colloquial, frank, complex , elegant, gentle, noble, powerful, austere. If there is all this in the story, then there is also the quality which is simply and nothing but its absolute pleasantness .