What wine tastes like is dependent on a variety of different factors. When we look at a bottle of wine, the label will contain descriptors of what we may expect the wine’s aroma and flavour to be, such as vanilla, berries or toasted. Slight changes in the production process of wine can cause drastic changes in the resulting flavours and tastes present in the wine. We take a look at some of the factors that can affect the taste of wine.
As the most important ingredient in winemaking, it is no surprise that the type of grape used to make the wine will have a big impact on the taste that wine will have. With over 10,000 different grape varieties, many of which are hybrid grapes developed by grafting, the taste possibilities are almost endless for wines. Despite this, most wineries and wine growing regions will stick to just a handful of grape varietals, which certainly makes it easier for the consumer to have some idea of what to expect from a particular bottle!
The grapes most commonly used for white wines are Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, while for red wines, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Grenache take the lead.
Terrior of the Grapes
A French term used to describe the conditions the grapes are grown in, ‘terrior’ encompasses factors such as the geography, climate and soil types that can influence how a wine turns out. The growing conditions can massively impact on a wine’s flavour, with the same grape varietal tasting quite different in a warmer region than in a cooler one, for example.
Climate is one of the biggest factors, as this influences the temperature at which the grapes will grow. A good temperature is needed for growing grapes for wine, as the heat is needed to produce sugars. This, in turn, will impact on how alcoholic a particular wine is, thus affecting the body, levels of tannins and acidity.
Cooler wine growing regions are those further away from the equator, like Northern France or Germany, and wines produced here are more likely to be lighter-bodied, and so will have a lower alcohol content and a crisp, acidic taste. Conversely, regions closer to the equator, like the sunnier South America, Southern France, Italy and Australia, will produce fuller-bodied wines that are more alcoholic and aromatic.
Another major factor in the outcome of a wine’s flavour is the decisions the winemaker makes in their creation process. This starts on the first day they harvest the grapes, as how ripe the grapes are will also determine the resultant flavour. The earlier the grapes are picked, the less sugars they will have, and consequently, they will be lighter-bodied wines with less alcohol content.
Different flavours are also created based on the blends winemakers put together. Many wines will not be made with one single type of grape varietal, but rather a mix of several different types, which produces a wide variety of flavour potentials. So, the flavour of a wine will differ based on what other grape varietals a winemaker has chosen to use in that particular blend. A further factor that is chosen by the winemaker is what the wine will be stored in to age it. Ageing wine in a barrel can add some extra flavour notes to a wine, particularly hints of toast and nuttiness.
For novice wine lovers who can’t yet pick out any of the subtle flavour notes or differentiate between the taste of different grape types, choosing wine based on their country of origin can be a great way to go. For example, if you have previously enjoyed an Argentinian wine, the chances are that you will enjoy others from that country, as the growing conditions will be similar enough. As your palate further develops, you will be able to work out exactly which flavour notes you like, and which you would rather not sip! As you sample different wines, your collection of bottles is likely to grow! Keep them all organised with a wine rack from Tanglewood Wines.