The 30 Second Wine Advisor

Vol. 1, No. 3, Feb. 1, 1999
© Copyright 1999 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

30 Second Wine Tasting Tip: Down the hatch!
Continuing our quick survey of analytical wine tasting (ground that I also cover in our Quick Online Wine Tasting Course,, we come from the eyes and the nose to the mouth or "palate."

Scientists tell us that our taste buds can discern only four basic flavors: Sweet, sour, bitter and salty. What we think of as taste, however, is a much more complex sensory experience that combines the messages from our taste buds with our senses of smell and touch.

Not only do smells influence what you taste, but the "feel" of the wine in your mouth is important as you gauge its sense of lightness or weight. This textural quality, which may range from watery-thin to viscous and oily, is very much a part of the experience of tasting wine.

Sourness is a fault in wine if it reeks of vinegar, but in the form of a clean, crisp tartness, it's a desirable trait, offering a brisk, acidic taste that's as amiable a companion to fish as a squirt of fresh lemon. A wine with too little acid, on the other hand, may seem mellow at first, but it's bland and uninspiring, lacking the verve to stand up to food.

Sweetness is desirable in dessert wines, but any residual sugar in dry table wines should be balanced with acidity in a sweet-sour mix. Bitterness is less commonplace in wines, although it's a trademark flavor in the aftertaste of some Italian reds and whites; and a salty wine, thankfully, is a rarity. Still, the key, as with everything in wine tasting, is balance.

30 Second Tasting Notes
I can hardly think of a better example to illustrate a dissertation of the taste and texture of wine than Sherry, a powerful, fortified wine from Spain with a rich, heavy mouthfeel attributable to high alcoholic content and, in some cases, intense sweetness. Not all Sherries are sweet, however, and today's notes feature two dry Sherries -- the relatively light and delicate Fino and a dark, rich but not-so-sweet Amontillado (the subject of Poe's famous story).

Made by an unusual process involving exposure to air (normally a no-no in wine making) and an exotic yeast called flor, Sherry is distinctly different from traditional table wines. But it's a delightful difference, and the simple fact is that Sherry is one of the few really world-class wines still selling at a bargain price. It's almost unbelievable that wines of this quality are available for less than $10.

Pale Fino Wisdom & Warter Ltd. non-vintage Fino Pale Dry Sherry ($8.49)
Clear light gold in color, this Sherry breathes a delicious scent of walnuts and crisp, ripe apples. Crisp fruit and cracked-nut flavors follow the nose, richly textured and tart. Bone-dry, its walnutty flavor remains consistent in a long, clean finish. U.S. importer: Excelsior Wine & Spirits, Farmingdale, N.Y. (Jan. 31, 1999)

FOOD MATCH: Best as an aperitíf or for after-dinner sipping; an intriguing match, however, with French onion soup.

Wisdom & Warter Ltd. non-vintage Extra Amontillado Sherry ($8.49)
Brilliant clear amber, the color of a good Bourbon whiskey. Lovely walnut, orange-peel, almond and spice aromas invite a taste, and the flavor rewards, full and rich, perhaps just a touch of sweetness, but with a good core of lemony acidity, it communicates itself as warm and dry. Very fine wine and a remarkable value. U.S. importer: Excelsior Wine & Spirits, Farmingdale, N.Y. (Jan. 27, 1999)

FOOD MATCH: Delicious after dinner, but also makes a surprising match with such varied dishes as fried clams and blue cheese.

30 Second Wine Link
Almost invisible in the United States after an unfortunate adulteration scandal in the early 1980s, Austrian wine is making a comeback, and deservedly so. With its vineyards on the banks of the beautiful Blue Danube not far from Vienna, this German-speaking nation makes full-bodied, flavorful wines that bear very little resemblance to German wines despite the similarity of names.

This week's wine link, Wine In Austria,, describes the country's wines from the perspective of its national wine-marketing board. For more information, you might want to revisit my Austrian trip report from last spring.

30 Second Advertising Partner
Robert Parker's Wine Advisor & Cellar Manager is the first and only software developed in conjunction with Robert Parker and derived from his newsletter, The Wine Advocate. It combines an extensive database of wine information with a unique Visual Cellar Manager. You'll find it at

Robert Parker's Wine Software

30 Second Administrivia
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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

More time for wine?
You don't need to wait for Mondays to read about wine! Drop in any time on Robin Garr's Wine Lovers' Page, where we add new tasting notes several times each week and expand our selection of wine-appreciation articles, tips and tutorials often.

And if you'd like to talk about wine online with fellow wine enthusiasts around the world, we'd be delighted to have you visit the interactive forums in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group. If you're from another part of the world and don't feel entirely comfortable chatting in English, try our new International Forum and introduce yourself in the language of your choice.

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