All posts filed under: sensory

The trilemma of primary, secondary and tertiary aromas

Primary wine flavors (the combination of aromas and tastes) come from the grape variety itself and are almost always fruity except when they’re not. Secondary aromas are those associated with post-fermentation winemaking and include yeast, lees, yogurt, cream, butter or cheese and a full spectrum of flavors derived from oak. Tertiary flavors are defined as deliberate oxidation, fruit development, bottle age or any combination thereof.

Pyrazines: A double-edged sword

Pyrazines—too much of a good thing and they’re a fault; absent in varieties like Sauvignon Blanc and they leave something to be desired. In relation to bitterness, pyrazines can be the source of a flaw or fault, but that’s just one of many ways they can impact wine flavor. Ask any maker of Bordeaux varieties, someone who grows grapes in a marginal climate or experiences a colder vintage, about their concerns, and they’ll surely count elevated pyrazines among them. Admittedly, pyrazines are a double-edged sword. Without them we wouldn’t have the expansive range of wine styles that are possible from Sauvignon Blanc or the markers that help us identify the family of Bordeaux varieties and the likes of Carmenère. But in the extreme, pyrazines dominate wine at the expense of other varietal flavors. We’ve all tasted them—from pungently herbaceous boxwood (the polite reference to cat pee) and jalapeño pepper in Sauvignon Blanc to rank green bell pepper or even weeds in red wines that haven’t achieved physiological ripeness. Pyrazines are the family of volatile organic …

Your glass is half full

Minerality — Without question the most controversial and elusive of wine descriptors.   This comes as no surprise given that the exact definition of what minerals themselves are is still under debate and has been expanded as an element or compound formed through “biogeochemical” processes.  Nutrient or dietary minerals—single elements like manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, calcium, copper and zinc—are minor components of red wine. White wines have small amounts of iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc. A serving of wine can also contain several milligrams of halite, the mineral salt (sodium chloride is the chemical name for salt), and we can accurately describe its taste in wine as saline minerality. Knowing that wine contains minerals, why is describing minerality so problematic?  Largely because aside from halite, nutrient minerals are essentially tasteless. Only when they’re in a highly concentrated liquid form, for example as a dietary supplement, do they taste offensively bitter. But the elusive flavors we describe as “mineral” in some wines can be readily attributed to specific compounds. The two of the most common …

Riedel celebrates 260 years of glassware expertise

There’s no question that glassware can alter our perceptions of wine. It’s a phenomenon experienced by every resourceful consumer who has pressed a plastic cup into service when a wineglass wasn’t close. While the proliferation of shapes intended to complement or enhance specific wines has been met with skepticism from certain corners, without empirical evidence to the contrary, simply increasing the measure of enjoyment that’s obtained from a glass of wine has validated the practice and the efforts of Austrian glassware maker Riedel. Science has already provided empirical evidence that makes a case for the superiority of wine glasses for the appreciation of wine. Using a thermal imaging technique, Japanese researchers have captured pictures of ethanol vapors volatizing from a wine glass in a ring-shaped pattern, with the area of lowest alcohol in the center. This “donut hole” effect allows for greater appreciation of volatile aroma compounds without the added interference from ethanol. When wine was tested from a Martini or straight glass it didn’t exhibit a ring shaped-vapor pattern, proof enough that wine glasses …

Bitterness: Examing the chemistry behind the taste sensation

Humans are particularly sensitive to bitterness. Thanks to a small but novel family of 30 genes, we can perceive thousands of bitter compounds. Our ability to discern bitter tastes evolved as a way to keep our early ancestors from eating poisonous plants. Bitterness is a taste sensation that we experience when monomeric flavonoid phenols, the compounds that are responsible for bitterness in wine, reach the bitter taste receptor cells on our taste buds. As the receptors send electrochemical signals to the gustatory cortex, we experience bitterness. To what degree determines whether we consider a wine to be merely complex, flawed or faulted. Read the entire article here –Bitterness June July 2016