Vol. 1, No. 3, Feb. 1, 1999
© Copyright 1999 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.
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.
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.
Wisdom & Warter Ltd. non-vintage Fino Pale Dry Sherry ($8.49)
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)
FOOD MATCH: Delicious after dinner, but also makes a surprising match with such varied dishes as fried clams and blue cheese.
This week's wine link, Wine In Austria, www.austrian.wine.co.at/wine/eindex.htm, 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.
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