3pm on February 20th @ Andy's house Coreen and LeBeau will be hosting a "component" tasting. It will be an informal sensory examination and evaluation of the wine. At days end we will have described the range of perceived flavors, aromas and general characteristics of the wines. We will NOT BE PAIRING foods. We will have plenty of palate cleansers and hors d'oeuvres, but this will be a different experience than we have ever had for those of you who attend.
Sounds interesting, right, but what does this really mean?
Components? What are components and have I been drinking them all along?
Why do I care?
Well, let's take this moment to try to answer these questions and maybe give you some helpful tips to bring to this very cool event.
Every wine contains a combination of different flavors, and without practice it can be hard to isolate and identify them. To get a good handle on each component tasters look to describe sweetness, acid and tannin.
We have been discussing in general the components of each of the wines we have tried over the last three years. With this tasting we will be putting our noses and taste buds to the test.
(Come on people, this group isn't just about the nice buzz).
The wines we will be tasting have been selected for having distinct characteristics in the aroma category. For example, if I say a Sauvignon Blanc smells like grapefruit, fresh cut grass, bell peppers and cat pee, you know what that smells like. But what if I also say 'gooseberry', 'tropical fruit' and 'minerals'? What if a wine smells like lychee, or bramble berries? At a component tasting, we'll have these items on hand for direct comparison, (ok, maybe not the cat pee).
And yes we do care about components. I don't know about you but this group has made my taste buds grow! I am tasting differently, not only with wine, but beer, dinner, even the snacks I eat. Learning more about the components of flavor and the make up of each makes my senses more talented. My mouth, nose and eyes are smarter.
This component tasting is going to focus on our noses and our tastebuds. Our tastebuds are wonderful things but limited. There are 4 kinds of taste buds (Lately, scientists and others have posited a fifth kind of taste bud called umami that can taste fat, but that is beyond the scope of this post). You've never TASTED anything that was not using one or more of these. Everything else is a flavor. Flavors come from your sense of smell through internal tubing from your mouth to your nose. Without our noses we would taste very, very little. Which would make eating and drinking very very boring.
So here are a few terms we have used before and will probably use again on the 20th and a couple of more that may be new to, at least some of us.TANNIN: comes from the grape skins, seeds, stems and to a certain level even the barrels the wine is aged in. It’s a natural preservative, and anti-oxidant. It also contributes to the texture and structure of the wine. Red wines are nearly always higher in tannin than whites because the reds are fermented with the grape skins and seeds, while whites are usually pressed to remove the skins and seeds prior to fermentation.
SWEETNESS: Obviously this component comes from the grape but there are also other sweet flavors we might get from wine like honeysuckle, dark berries, and roses. I thought those flavors appeared because the grapes were grown with them or added during fermentation itself. Nope, it is actually more simple and complicated than that. We will be learning more on this at the Component pairing in February.ACID: This component is naturally found in grapes and through the process of fermentation can be increased or decreased. There are several different types of acid, tartaric acid, potassium hydrogen tartrate (cream of tartar), malic acid and potassium hydrogen malate. Different wines have different acids and different levels of those acids which aid in creating a full flavor. I know we have heard LeBeau mention malolactic fermentation, (I think it is fun to say), this process lowers acid by converting it to lactic acid. That creamy taste in Chardonnay, yep, that is thanks to malolactic fermentaion.
Now we know more about what components are and on February 20th we will discover how certain components come to be in the wine. Yes, gulpers, there will be a quiz at the end.....just kidding....maybe...