Wine 101

What are the primary wine flavor factors?

There are many different wine flavor factors and aromas that complete the tasting experience. We believe these characteristics can be simplified down to eight primary factors:

1. Sweetness – the amount of residual sugar in a wine, ranging from low (bone dry) to high (sweet).

2. Acidity – the amount of citric, malic, and tartaric acids in a wine, ranging from low (flat) to high (biting).

3. Tannins – the amount of phenolic compounds, drawn from skins and pips of grapes, which impart a sharp, bitter flavor to the wine.

4. Oak – the influence of compounds from the oak barrels used to age the wine.

5. Finish – the length and quality of a wine’s aftertaste, ranging from brief to endless.

6. Complexity – how the wine’s sweetness, acidity, tannins, and oak affect the wine’s overall flavor, ranging from simple to complex.

7. Body – how the wine’s components affect the intensity and richness of the wine’s overall flavor, ranging from weak to potent.

8. Balance – how all of the seven preceding factors balance out, ranging from unbalanced to well-balanced.

November 17, 2017 / by / in
What is a flabby wine?

The term “flabby wine” usually describes a wine that lacks acidity.

Though “flabby” is often used for white wines, as overall, they contain higher levels of acids, it can also be used to describe red wines as well.

The opposite of a “flabby” wine is a “biting” or “sharp” wine, and refers to one whose acid content is too high to make it very palatable.

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What is meant by “letting wine breathe”?

‘Letting wine breathe’ means to expose it to fresh air. This causes the wine to mix with the air, and will cause the wine to begin oxidizing. Depending on the wine’s type and age, oxidation can cause different effects, both desired and undesired.

For a younger wine, breathing is normally not needed, as most of the wines flavors and characteristics will be immediately present upon opening the bottle.

For an older wine, which has had time to age in the bottle, and which has been exposed to slight amounts of oxygen that seeped in through the cork, a longer amount of breathing may be necessary. Sometimes, allowing an older wine to breath for 10 or 15 minutes will allow its deeper flavors, aromas, and characteristics to show through, which otherwise might not have developed had the wine been opened and then immediately poured.

There are several ways to allow a wine to breathe:

1. uncorking the bottle and letting it sit out for a few minutes

2. pouring it into a decanter (a specially-designed glass or crystal container that permits a maximum surface area of the wine to be exposed to air)

3. pouring the wine into a glass, and waiting a few minutes before drinking it.

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How can I remove wine stains from carpet, upholstery, or clothing?

Several commercially-produced cleaning agents are available that can help remove wine stains. Cleaners containing sodium percarbonate (sometimes advertised with “Oxygen action”) can quickly remove stains.

However, if you are in a bind, and do not have any specialized cleaner handy, pour some salt (or a saltwater solution) on the stained area – the salt will help neutralize acids in the wine, help absorb some of the wine, and also act as a good sterilizing agent.

If you have spilled wine on an article of clothing, try soaking the article in a saltwater solution for up to an hour. You can also try presoaking it in clothing detergent. Finally, if the stain is really tough, and just will not come out, try taking the clothing to the dry cleaner, as they will no doubt have the right cleaning agent that can strip out even the toughest stain. If you do take your clothing to a dry cleaner, however, try going to one that uses “green” cleaner – environmentally friendly cleaning agents.

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When tasting wines, should I rinse the glass after each taste?

Rinsing your glass depends largely on personal preference. If you rinse, try to remove as much water as possible from the glass, as a few drops of water can adversely affect the flavor of the next wine, more than a few drops of the previous wine you tasted.

OregonWines.com staff normally do not rinse when tasting just whites, or just reds – but if we are going to taste both whites and reds in one session, we will rinse our glasses after we have finished tasting the whites, before we move on to the reds.

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What is meant by “mouthfeel”?

Mouthfeel refers to how the wine feels in your mouth. The sugars, acids, alcohol, tannins, and various other components in the wine will affect the way it coats and interacts with your mouth.

Sweeter wines, such as dessert wines, will have a softer, syrupy mouth feel more than a dry wine. A full-bodied red wine, higher in tannins and alcohol, with have more of an edge – almost a bite – as it hits your taste buds, and moves around on your tongue.

Generally speaking, wines with a softer or smoother mouthfeel tend to have a longer, lingering finish, and the wine will evenly coat your tongue, just as it will your throat when you swallow it.

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What is a buttery wine?

A “buttery wine” refers to a wine containing lower amounts of acids, which result in a smooth, silky, even creamy feel in the mouth. This can be the result of ageing methods. For example, a Chardonnay wine, aged in an oak barrel, often imparts a buttery flavor.

As implied, a buttery wine rolls over your tongue as would liquid butter.

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What are wine legs? What are tears?

Wine legs and tears are caused by wine dribbling down the sides of a wine glass. They are most often visible after tasting a wine, when the glass has been tilted on its side, and then righted.

Some of the wine will have coated the inner sides of the glass, and will begin dripping back down into the bottom. This is caused by alcohol in the wine evaporating, breaking the surface tension on the upper edge of the wine, causing the watery components to fall away back into the glass.

The shape and size of the legs are a sign of the wine’s viscosity (which in turn is affected by the amount of glycerols and alcohol found in the wine).

A wine with low viscosity will have smaller, more watery legs. A wine with higher viscosity will have larger, slower legs.

November 17, 2017 / by / in
How do parts of the tongue taste flavors?

The tongue is capable of tasting four distinct types of flavors: sugars, salts, sours, and bitters.

The front tip of the tongue is most sensitive to sweet flavors.

On either side of the tip are two slightly less sensitive areas that can detect salts.

Along both sides of the tongue are sensors used for tasting acids and other sours.

In the middle, at the back of the tongue, is an area sensitive to bitter flavors.

The geography and different sensitivities of the tongue give good reason to use a properly shaped glass when tasting wines.

November 17, 2017 / by / in
What is more important to note when tasting wines: aromas or flavors?

It is important to note both aromas and flavors — as the two are closely linked — though the nose is far more acute than the tongue at detecting what it is you are consuming when you taste wines.

The tongue detects four primary flavors: sweet, salt, bitter, and sour. Every flavor you experience can be derived down to a combination of those four components.

The nose, on the other hand, is capable of detecting several thousand separate types of scents, so it is able to identify much finer variations in aromas.

After tasting multiple wines in one setting, your tongue may become fatigued. This can make it extremely difficult to identify the flavors of a wine. The nose, on the other hand, seems capable of lasting much longer than the tongue. Therefore, when tasting wines, not only is the nose relied upon more for its acuteness, but also its endurance.

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