Tasting Breakdown – The Palate

In past posts, I have discussed the Visual Inspection and Aroma parts of wine tasting, but now its time to actually taste the wine. . .

The Palate is a fancy word used to describe how a wine tastes, and can be broken down into several different characteristics:

  • flavor
  • body
  • sweetness
  • acidity
  • tannins
  • finish

To start take a small sip, as though you are drinking it through a straw.  You don’t have to slurp or gargle it, but do hold it in your mouth for a few seconds.  The key is to allow the wine to circulate around your mouth, exposing as many taste buds as possible to the flavors.  You will want to try to confirm the flavors that you identified in the aroma, but also look for new flavors. You will also want to consider how full the wine makes your mouth feel or the weight of the wine.  This characteristic is called the body and is sort of like comparing skim milk to whole milk.  

Beyond flavors and body, you want to determine if the wine is dry or sweet.  This is a statement about the amount of residual sugar in the wine, so you don’t want to confuse fruity with sweet.  A dry wine can have fruit flavors (as can a sweet wine).  The difference is dry wine will actually dry out your mouth and not have any of the syrupy-ness of sweet wines.

After determining sweetness, the next two characteristics to consider are acidity and tannins.  The acidity of a wine gives it a crispness and creates a mouth-watering sensation.  The tannins are bitter and produce a drying sensation in your mouth (the opposite of effect from the acidity). Tannins are usually only found in red wine, because they come from the grape skins (and white wine is white because the grape skins are removed for fermentation).

And finally, the finish (sometimes also called the length).  This is used to describe how long the taste/sensations lasts in your mouth after you’ve swallowed the wine.  The finish is usually described as Short (8 seconds).

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