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 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!
Merlot (pronounced Mare-LOW)
Merlot is the most widely planted red grape in France’s Bordeaux region, although it is eclipsed in stature by cabernet sauvignon, the grape with which it is routinely blended. In recent years, Merlot has enjoyed a explosion in popularity, especially in the United States, South America, Italy and Australia. In California, plantings have risen from 4,000 acres in 1988 to over 50,000 today.
A thin-skinned variety, merlot ripens earlier in the season then cabernet sauvignon and is less hardy, prone to a variety of ailments from shatter (the loss of potential fruit during flowering of the vine) to rot and mildew. It is more adaptable to cool climates than cabernet sauvignon, but similarly prefers a relatively warm growing environment.
Merlot’s popularity is due to the fact that it is softer, fruitier, and earlier-maturing than cabernet sauvignon, yet displays many of the same aromas and flavors – black cherry, currant, cedar, and green olive – along with mint, tobacco and tea-leaf tones. Although enjoyable as a varietal wine, it is probably most successful when blended with cabernet sauvignon, which contributes the structure, depth of flavor, and ageability merlot lacks.
Like cabernet, merlot is a good accompaniment to simply prepared beef and lamb dishes.
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