Salty or sweet, acidic or bitter
By Carlo Cibo Original Print Publication: April, 2007
In my previous columns, we have looked at how our enjoyment of a wine is enhanced by its appearance and aroma. Now we have reached the moment of truth: taste. This month we take a look at both the physiological and the aesthetic elements of taste.
The physiological dimension of taste refers to how we perceive what we call flavor: Is the wine sweet or salty? Is it acidic or bitter? Aesthetics imply judgment and pose the question: Is the wine good?
Drinking wine is a sensual pleasure, in large part passive: we enjoy the sensations of the wine without paying them too much attention.
To truly taste a wine, however, is a deliberate and considered act, full of scrutiny, informed by what the wine has to offer and what the taster is looking for. The objective of this higher level of attention is to broaden our enjoyment. In this sense, wine tasting is no different than any other interest, be it literature or sports, painting or gardening.
Going deeper into our pastimes takes us to the point where we know what qualities to look for, and have a context for appreciating their fundamentals and subtleties. We learn to see form and color in painting; our ears pick up melody, harmony and rhythm in music; we anticipate movement and strategy in sports, and evaluate the geometry and structure of the plants in our garden.
And so it is with wine. We notice more characteristics, and take pleasure in the themes and variations of the grape. We share our knowledge with other aficionados and, when we take our next sip and allow the sensations to lap over us, appreciate them much more.
When we finally taste the wine, we hope to corroborate the impressions given by the wine’s appearance and smell, and this is one of the indicators of a wine’s quality. As with aroma, there is any number of possible flavors, but the four fundamentals are sweet, salty, acidic and bitter, the combination of which determines a wine’s soul.
Additionally, we notice the wine’s feel in our mouth, and speak of its corpulence, temperature, astringency, silkiness and length. We experience the interplay between aroma and taste, a connection experts call the “retronasal path”.
Next month, we’ll delve deeper into the flavors and textures and sensations that we call taste. Until then, the wines above will appeal to all of the senses. Salud!