A little something to share with the F&B teams + for anyone else who may have an interest in the subject...
Wine wine wine..
Wine Tasting - The Sense of Smell
There are a few very important things to note when we "nose" a wine. It is suggested to first smell the wine before swirling, noticing the delicate aromas. Next, swirl the wine and smell again after it is at rest. Depending on the bouquet, you may then notice a profound difference in the odors emerging. Aroma is a smell that originates from the actual grape, with very clear cut characteristics. Aroma is most prevalent in young wines. The bouquet of a wine refers to smells generated as a result of aging; smells found particularly in mature wines that were aged in a bottle. The bouquet generally has much softer and complex characteristics than aromas. Identifying what you smell is usually the most challenging part in wine tasting. Although there are many smell categories used to describe characteristics of wine, none have been exclusively agreed upon.
Wine Tasting - The Sense of Touch
Touch is an important category of taste sensation. This is where we try to feel the wine on the palate. Here we seek to find impressions of such things as texture, body, temperature, and astringency. The aftertaste, finish, and length of a wine are all things we feel on our palate. We are looking for how the wine feels in weight (light, medium, full) and texture (silky, coarse, velvety). Try to observe how long the sensations last in your mouth. Most will tell you the longer it lasts, the better the wine!
Wine Tasting - The Sense of Taste
After observing your wine using the sense of sight and smell, it is then time to use your palate to identify tastes. This is far more detailed than simply tasting as we would any other beverage. We must remember to note the characteristics of the wine on all sensory areas of the tongue. Sweetness is detected on the very tip of the tongue, while bitter tastes are sensed in the extreme rear. Saltiness is sensed on the front, upper sides of the tongue, and the acidity-sour taste is sensed mainly on the sides. Some suggest focusing your attention on one sensation at a time in order to be more efficient in your taste. Try taking a sip of wine and swallowing immediately. Then try another sip, this time letting the wine work well around the palate into these sensory areas before swallowing. You will recognize a noticeable difference in the intensity of flavors!
Wine Tasting - The Sense of Sight
Wine tasting basics begin with knowing how to use your senses to understand, interpret, and enjoy the wine. The ability to recognize what you see, and furthermore describe it in clear terms, is a very important wine tasting skill.
Although some may say the appearance of the wine is the least important aspect with regard to the senses, it is still worth noting. When examining appearance, we are looking for clarity and color. We want the wine to be free of any sediment, leaving it clear and brilliant. Red wines tend to lose their color as they mature, while white wines tend to grow darker with age. A good quality wine generally will be intense in color. The "legs" seen running down the sides of a glass after being swirled, are an indication of flavor density. It is best to use a plain white background, and tilt the glass slightly as you observe clarity and color.
Basic Principles of Successful Food-Wine Pairing
The main rule to remember about pairing wine with food is that there are no rules: you should drink the wines you like with the foods you like. That being said, there are some basic guidelines that can help you maximize your enjoyment of wine-food pairing.
Match the weight & texture of the food to the weight & texture of the wine
Example: A light-bodied fish like sole works best with a light-bodied white wine like pinot grigio, while a heavier-bodied fish like salmon calls for a richer, fuller-bodied white like chardonnay.
Balance the intensity of flavors in the food and wine
Example: A mildly flavored food like roast turkey pairs well with light-bodied white and red wines like sauvignon blanc and Beaujolais, but in the context of a Thanksgiving dinner featuring stuffing, cranberry sauce, and other strongly flavored side dishes, an intensely flavored white like gewürztraminer or a rich, fruity red like syrah or zinfandel would be preferable.
The five basic tastes are sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami (the recently discovered fifth taste found in savory foods like mushrooms, tomatoes, soy sauce, and aged cheeses and meats). Salty and sour tastes in food make wines taste milder (fruitier and less acidic), while sweet and savory (umami) tastes make wines taste stronger (drier and more astringent).
Example: A simple cut of beef tames the tannins and brings out the fruit of a young cabernet sauvignon, but chocolate (which some people enjoy with cabernet) will accentuate its tannins and diminish its fruit. Seasonings, such as salt, lemon, vinegar, and mustard, can be used to achieve balance in food-wine pairings, either to make the wine taste milder (salt, lemon, vinegar) or stronger (sugar or umami ingredients).
Flavors are combinations of tastes and aromas, and there are an infinite number of them. You can fine-tune food and wine pairings by matching flavors in the food and the wine.
Example: Roast duck in a plum sauce is well-served by red wines, like barbera or syrah, with pronounced black plum flavors while grilled steak in a pepper sauce will go beautifully with a peppery zinfandel.
Sometimes, the best choice is to counterpoint flavors rather than matching them.
Example: Pairing a spicy dish like Jamaican Jerk Chicken with a high-alcohol red wine may seem logical, but, in fact, the heat in the dish will ignite the alcohol in the wine to produce an unpleasantly hot, harsh impression. A better choice is a low-alcohol, fruity wine like riesling or gewürztraminer, which will both frame and tame the spicy flavors of the dish.
I do hope that the above basics + many tastings will get you to appreciate your next glass of 'grapes'...
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