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Friday, November 21, 2014

Tasting Wine. Well, You Don't Actually Taste It

In truth, you don't taste much of anything. This is correct for any beverage or food.

Your tongue is not very sophisticated when it comes to picking up the nuances of what you eat or drink. It basically perceives sweet, salty, bitter, and sour; each on a different part of the tongue.

Also, your mouth picks up what is called mouthfeel. This would be body, or viscosity (is the liquid thick or thin), the temperature, and any burning or heat (as from alcohol). A higher acid wine may seem thin. One with some residual sugar, even a little bit, seems fuller-bodied (thick).

Your tongue's receptors
Image from understandingfoodadditives.org

Notice the bitter receptors at the back of the tongue. Sauvignon Blanc is a fairly acidic wine and when it hits that part of the tongue some people's response is refreshing, another person's might be acidic, to someone else it's sour. Everybody's receptors-to-brain translation is a little different.

The aroma comes from the nose and this sense is highly sophisticated. It turns out that your sense of smell has the longest-term memory of any of your senses. For instance, a particular scent might take you back to grandma's house when you were a toddler. You may not remember the instance when you first smelled this, but you may have an emotional response, pleasurable or not. This could be why some people will like a certain odor and other not. Past experiences through our sense of smell shape our preferences for certain wines or foods.

It also seems that cooks, or anyone who knows their spices and fruits, can do a better job of explaining a wine's characteristics. Possibly they enjoy wine more than those who don't know the difference between allspice and thyme?

When you have a cold and your sense of smell isn't working well then everything you consume seems uninteresting.

Your brain integrates the smells from the nose and tastes from the mouth together you get flavor and the full enjoyment of what you're consuming. So as it turns out you don't actually taste that much, rather you taste and smell together.