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While the four main flavors – sweet, salty, sour and bitter – are what your tongue can really taste, the lasting impression that wine leaves in your mouth is much more complex. When you drink or taste wine, both your taste buds and your sense of smell are involved, adding to your overall interpretation of the wine. The flavors, aromas and sensations of a wine make up the interaction you have when you taste it.
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Sweetness is something that wines are known for. For most types of wine, the grape is responsible for the sweetness. Grapes contain a lot of sugar, which breaks down the yeast into alcohol. The grapes and yeast used to produce wine leave behind a variety of sugars that your tongue can quickly detect. Once your tongue detects these different sugars, the sweet stimulation of the wine is constantly present in your mouth.
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Alcohol is also present in wine, although your tongue doesn’t really know how to interpret the taste of alcohol. Alcohol is present in the mouth even though the tongue doesn’t really taste it. The alcohol in wine dilates the blood vessels and therefore intensifies all the other flavors in the wine. After you have tasted several types of wine, the alcohol content can easily have an effect on your taste buds, making it difficult to distinguish between other beverages.
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Another taste is acidity, which will affect the sugar content. With the right balance of acidity, the overall taste of a wine can be very overwhelming. Once you taste a wine containing it, the taste of acidity will become familiar to your tongue. While acidity is great for wine, too much acidity can leave a very sharp flavor profile. At the right level, acidity will bring the flavors of the grapes and fruit to life in your mouth – providing you with the perfect amount of flavor.
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Yet another influence on flavor is tannic acid, the protein found in the skins of grapes and other fruits. If a wine has the right amount of tannin, it will give your tongue a great sensation and bring out the sensation of other flavors. Once the wine begins to age, the tannins will begin to break down in the bottle, giving you a soft mouthfeel. Tannins are essential to the flavor of wine – as long as the wine has been properly aged.
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The final flavor associated with wine is oak. Although the oak is not put into the wine during the manufacturing process, it is actually transferred during the aging process, as most wines spend a considerable amount of time in oak barrels. The ability to extract flavors will vary depending on how long the wine spends in oak barrels or casks. Most of the time, the wine will be aged to the point where the oak flavors are clearly present – and add the perfect amount of emotion to the palate.
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While there are other flavors involved in wine, they are not as present as those listed above. The flavors listed above are the most present in wine and are the ones you need to become more familiar with. Before you try to taste a wine or distinguish between flavors, you should always learn as much as you can about the components responsible for these flavors. That way – you will have a better understanding of what you are tasting and you will be able to truly appreciate the wine.