GETTING TO KNOW WINE
There are many characteristics that define a wine, parameters that allow us to assess its peculiarities and similarities with other products. These features help to match a wine to a dish in the best possible way. Wines are historically categorised according to different criteria: from the method of vinification to the organoleptic properties: colour, perfume and aroma; other parameters contribute to defining the characteristics of a wine: acidity, sweetness, alcohol content, astringency and body.
Our friends at Vinhood have chosen to focus their research on wines (and more!) on some of these characteristics, to help you find your way around the immense variety of products that exist. With our #Characters we try to advise you on the most suitable wine, starting with your own tastes.
Once we have bought a wine or when we find ourselves drinking a glass of a label you are not familiar with, how is it possible to analyse it? Simplifying is always the best solution; we base our judgement on what we perceive through our senses: touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. All five, you say? Yes, that’s right: senses that synergistically help us to evaluate and appreciate what we are tasting.
And as with all great passions, training is the key: the more wines you taste, the more notes you take, the more you refine your tasting skills, the better you will be able to compare different bottles, to assess their complexity and the wealth of nuances that each possesses.
IT TAKES A BEASTLY PHYSIQUE
Yes, let’s talk about the body…the structure of a wine. Let’s start with a parameter that is not defined by a scientific and measurable scale, but it is a criterion that allows us to explain the intensity of the tactile perception in the mouth of a wine.
The body is easily identified by the receptors in our mouths which are able to define the sensations provided by all the non-volatile substances dissolved in the wine (volatile substances are mainly water and ethanol).
One parameter that may help you define the structure of a wine is the fixed residue (g/l), a value that is often stipulated in the specifications for different types of wine. But what is it? It is the mass of all the substances that remain after alcohol, water and other volatile substances have evaporated.
However, it is difficult to understand from this figure what we are talking about: to simplify, think of the difference you feel when you sip a tea, which is light and almost insubstantial, or a pear juice, which is dense and full-bodied. The difference in fullness in the mouth that you feel is the body.
When you sip a #Creative wine, for example, you will perceive it as very enveloping on the palate: the freshness of a white wine manages to coexist with the structure reminiscent of a red. A bit like a perfect English tea, drunk with whole milk and lots of sugar: a perfect balance of lightness and fullness.
Many parameters make a wine more or less full-bodied, including tannins, which increase the structure of a wine. This is why we understand why an #Sensual red wine will seem particularly velvety to you.
In addition, sugars are the cause of a wine’s great density: think of how soft and syrupy sweet straw wines seem, almost as if you were tasting a glass of full-bodied honey. The feeling of fullness is also helped by the presence of small doses of polyols, such as glycerine. If sweet wine is too much for you, you will certainly be among those who appreciate a complex and intriguing drink, savouring an #Profound, dry and structured white wine.
The passage in wood is also the best stratagem that a skilled winemaker can favour if he wants to increase the feeling of roundness in his wine: to understand better, taste a wine #Sage, structured, dense and astringent.
However, not everything favours the body and, on the other hand, not all our recipes require a wine that overpowers the tactile sensations in our mouths: acidity and carbonation lower the structure of a body. For the days when you need to “clean” your mouth and not weigh it down.
A SPOONFUL OF SUGAR HELPS THE MEDICINE GO DOWN
The sweetness of a wine derives from the residual sugar (RD), which corresponds to the quantity of sugars (mainly glucose and fructose) that have not undergone alcoholic fermentation. A #Lively wine, made from aromatic grapes, i.e. those naturally endowed with a higher content of aromas than normal grapes, is very fragrant but above all very sweet.
Sweetness is a measurable parameter according to a precise scale: this makes the choice much easier, because the real perception of sweetness is not so easy to distinguish. The sugar content of a wine is strongly influenced by its acidity, the presence or absence of tannins and also by the serving temperature. In fact, the temperature at which the wine is served must be adapted to the type of wine: an excessive perception of sweetness makes the wine cloying. The best choice, therefore, for tasting dessert wines, ice wines or fortified wines, such as those with an #Affectionate character, is to serve them chilled or cold.
Given the great difference between still and sparkling wines, we can easily imagine that the evaluation of sweetness in these wines is different. For still wines, in fact, this terminology is used:
- 0-10 g/l – dry wines
- 9-20 g/l – medium dry wines
- 18-45 g/l – medium sweet wines
- >45 g/l – sweet wines
The sweetness scale for sparkling wines, on the other hand, has to be more complex and specific: these wines contain a small amount of added sugar at the end of production. A #Witty sparkling wine, therefore, is classified according to sweetness as follows:
- Brut zero: 0- 3 g/l (no added sugar)
- Extra brut: 0-6 g/l;
- Brut: 0-12 g/l;
- Extra-dry: 12-17 g/l;
- Sec o Dry: 17-32 g/l;
- Demi-sec: 32-50 g/l;
- Sweet: > 50 g/l.
With these wines, a serving temperature that is not too high allows the presence of sugar to be dampened and also enhances the acidity and flavour.
Semi-sparkling wines, on the other hand, are less effervescent than sparkling wines and will therefore only be classified into four categories: dry – medium dry – medium sweet and sweet.
HAVE YOU EVER TASTED A SWEATSHIRT?
Months ago, with this provocation, we explained what tannins are one of the elements that is perhaps most difficult to appreciate, because they give wine its bitterness. Tannins, on the other hand, have many beneficial health properties, from reducing cholesterol to combating obesity: many scientific studies focus on the properties of these natural polyphenols. In wine, they usually come from grape skins left in contact with the must and are stabilised mainly through ageing. The tannicity of wine depends both on the production process, but often also on the specific characteristics of the grape variety.
The perception that a #Sage wine gives, with its complexity, is one of dryness and roughness: this is greater in particularly young wines, but can be controlled during the production of the wine itself.
If you want to try to understand the sensation that tannins give to wine, we suggest you taste an #Eccentric, an orange wine that is complex, but gives layered and colourful aromas. A rich and enveloping bouquet will make your tasting a unique experience.
NOT ONLY IN CITRUS FRUITS
All foods and drinks that leave a more or less pungent sensation in the mouth, a tingling sensation that then increases salivation, contain acidity. We tend to generalise and think that there is only one type, but there are many types and, above all, many gradations. Generally speaking, wines are between 2.5 and 4 on the pH scale and this aspect is fundamental: acidity preserves the quality of a wine, slowing down its deterioration.
Acidity characterises all wines, to varying degrees: even if you are a red wine lover, you will not miss the opportunity to experience this sensation, perhaps when tasting a wine #Laidback, low in alcohol and characterised by a scent of small red fruits. Of course, you will usually recognise it more easily in a white wine, as very acidic wines are lighter and less sweet.
Tartaric acid, malic acid and citric acid are what characterise wines the most: what are we talking about? Imagine the difference between tasting a grape (tartaric), a green apple (malic) and a grapefruit (citric).
Wines that contain higher amounts of acidic substances are usually sparkling wines. Treat yourself to a glass of a fresh, acidic #Brillant wine and you will understand what we are talking about. #Brillant wines are sparkling wines that are so fresh and sharp in acidity that you may feel a pleasant chill run down your spine.
Obviously, as in many other cases, balance is the best option for acidity: a wine that is too acidic is often described as sour or bitter. On the other hand, a lack of acidity makes the wine uninteresting, flat.
A #Playful wine allows the acidity to be perceived well, accompanied by a saline sensation that is well balanced by a silky, enveloping perception.
And when we talk about volatile acidity, what do we mean? This refers to the acetic acid that develops with ageing and must remain strictly below a certain threshold, otherwise the wine must be considered defective due to acidity.
Certainly alcohol is one of the first defining characteristics of a wine: ethanol, an apparently simple compound, but one that can determine a wine’s taste and ageing capacity.
Inebriated and hot, how do you feel after a glass of #Profound? These complex and intriguing wines are only produced in the best vintages and are characterised by a deep aroma: the alcohol content will quickly inebriate you.
The ethyl alcohol in wine is produced by the fermentation of the sugars contained in the must: the sweeter the grapes at harvest time, the more sugars there will naturally be in the must and the more alcoholic the wine will be. A sweet or fortified #Affectionate wine will quickly warm your palate due to its high sugar and alcohol content.
In some areas with a cool climate, the practice of sugaring (i.e. adding sugar to the must to compensate for the lack of natural sugars) is permitted. In many appellation specifications in Italy, it is forbidden because it is considered an alteration of the finished wine.
Alcoholicity increases the sensation of structure and smoothness of a wine, mitigating the effect of acidity: an #Exotic wine, for example, is often quite dense, partly due to a slight residual sugar.
Given the rather serious effects of excessive alcohol intake, a wine is called ‘alcoholic’ when one wants to emphasise a negative aspect of it: a product in which the alcohol content becomes predominant over all other taste sensations. Moderation and common sense are essential when considering alcoholicity: there are legal limits, rules and regulations, but above all, you have to rely on your own self-control.
Now we are sure that, at the next tasting, you will be able to evaluate all these aspects. What strikes you most? What is your #Character? Take notes and compare each taste… this is the way to become a real expert.