The only response I had last week on my ideas for various Q & A topics was Nicki‘s question about chocolate wine, so I’m just going to do a brief run-down on tastes in wine today, then leave it open for questions.
The taste of wine encompasses different things, including:
- mouthfeel (how heavy or light the wine is, whether it clings to your tongue or just flows through; carbonation could be considered part of this)
- acidity (exactly what it sounds like; generally, the more acidic a wine, the stronger the flavor of the food it should be paired with
- flavors (what do you think the wine tastes like?)
I’m going to concentrate on that last one. The flavors of wine are why you never (or rarely, anyway) hear someone sip and say, “That tastes just like Welch’s grape juice!” Different grapes generally have different undertones common to them. The darker grapes often have berry or other fruit flavors, such as plum. White wines might be described as tasting like apple or grass (Sauvignon blanc is often described as grassy.). “Floral” is used to describe wines that remind people (oddly enough) of flowers (Viognier, for example). Cigars, chocolate, mushrooms, slate — anything the wine tastes like to you can be used to describe it. There are no wrong answers!
(Note that, unlike in beers, these items are not generally present in the wine itself, except in certain spiced wines. Coffee porters are brewed with coffee; some brewers add cocoa to their chocolate porters. Winemakers do not add either to their vats.)
Mind you, there are some descriptions that leave me leery of trying a certain wine myself, particularly pipi du chat — another term used to describe some sauvignon blancs’ mix of asparagus, grass, and other herbs. It can be all in how you sell it. If you want a bit more explanation of what causes this and why these terms are used, a good beginner’s guide was posted on the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Website back in 2005 (“Here, kitty kitty“).
Your turn: what’s the strangest thing you’ve tasted in a wine? What flavor would you like to find?