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Understanding the Basic Flavors of Wine

Before you can start sensory testing which flavor of wine is the most popular, you have to know a little bit about the basic flavors of wine. Wine gurus typically know these things like the back of their hand. A typical test of wine flavor usually involves certain basic characteristics of flavor.

The five basic wine characteristics include sweetness, acidity, tannin, fruit, and body. Understanding these basics helps manufacturers develop their wine. A manufacturer of wine needs to understand how these characteristics affect the people buying their products. The more you understand the factors the better chance you will have of producing a wine that sells.

Let’s talk for a moment about sweetness or the level of dryness of a wine. To taste sweet, focus your attention on the taste buds on the tip of your tongue. Are your taste buds tingling? This is a clear indicator of sweetness. Also, look for a slight oily sensation in the middle of your tongue that lingers. Sweet wine has a higher viscosity and will display wine tears on the side of a glass slowly. Dry red wines such as cabernet sauvignon often have up to 0.9 g/L of residual sugar, which is common with less expensive wines that present the sweeter quality.

sensory analysis

What about acidity? Acidity in food and drink is tart and zesty. Tasting acidity is often confused with the taste of higher alcohol. Acidity characteristics include a tingling sensation that focuses on the front and sides of your tongue. If you rub your tongue to the roof of your mouth, it feels gravelly. Your mouth will feel wet, as if you had bit into an apple.

Another sensory characteristic relates to tannin. Tannin is often confused with the level of dryness because tannin dries your mouth. What are wine tannins? Tannin is the presence of phenolic compounds to add bitterness to a wine. Phenolic compounds are in the skins and seeds of wine grapes. A high tannin wine will taste bitter on the front inside of your mouth and along the side of your tongue. It often makes your tongue dry out and after you swallow you will feel a lingering bitter/dry feeling in your mouth.

Fruit is another primary characteristic of basic wine flavor. Most wine choices depend on their main fruit flavors. When tasting the fruitiness of a wine, it’s a matter of asking some questions. For example, if you’re drinking a red wine can you taste red fruit such as raspberry or dark fruits like blackberry and blueberry? When drinking a white wine can you taste lemon and lime or peach and yellow apple? Could you name three different fruits associated with that wine easily? Do you find it difficult to pick out a single fruit flavor? Does the wine give a stronger impression of other flavors such as grass, bell pepper, black pepper, or meat? Body is another major characteristic of wine flavor. Body is a snapshot of the overall impression of a wine taste. It’s the result of many wine factors such as its variety, where it’s from, the vintage, the alcohol level, and how it’s made. Alcohol level adds body. The wine will have a higher viscosity, which is easily seen by watching it bead on the side of the glass. A high alcohol wine typically tastes fuller bodied than a light alcohol wine. Is it lighter or bigger? How long does the taste last in your mouth after you have swallowed? Is the wine full-bodied up front but then drops off at the finish?

Product specific sensory testing of wine characteristics is extremely important. There are over 250,000 different wines released every year around the world. Understanding the different characteristics of basic wine flavor can help set the bar for success and failure.

This article is free information from Contract Testing Inc., an established leader in sensory product research and consumer product research for the food, beverage, and (QSR) quick service restaurant industries throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more about the complete scope of product research services, please call 1-905-456-0783 or visit us onlineContractTesting.com.