The tactile sensations a wine can produce

What is astringency? When do we say a wine is stringent? How is it perceived the grease sensation of a wine? When can we say that a wine has weight or is voluminous? And fluid?

Introduction

In the sensorial perception of a wine apart from sight, smell and taste, it also participates another of the fifth senses, the touch. When the wine enters into our mouth cavity provoques us a bif quantity of different sensations, some of them caused by chemical reactions, as for instance that which takes place between our saliva (and some of the proteins which can be found in it ) with the different wine compounds as tannins.

When we were searching for specific characteristics which could help to identify and measure the tactile sensations, we found a lack of uniformity with the terms that refert to these sensations and we decided to dedfine our own terminology.

After many years of wine tasting, commenting and evaluating wines, we have developed a specific terminology base don our experience. Thanks to the Tasting Panel, we could revise research and improve the terms which better define theses sensations. In the same way it helped us find the way to unify what we believe is the best language in our area.

The Tasting Panel of Vila Viniteca evaluates 6 tactile sensations clearly different: astringency, alcohol sensation and integration, grease sensation, fluidity, volumen and weight.

To evaluate and measure these characteristics linear scales with values from 0 to 10 or shorter, from 1 to 5 are used, as well as discriminatory tests (Yes/No).

We detail as we have trained the Panel in each one of these characteristics, the developing process of its patterns of reference and its tasting protocol, as follows:

Astringency

We understand by astringency the wine ability to cause a roughness or dryness on the tongue, teeth and gums. Sometimes it can be associated to a bitter sensation.

It is the most present in the red wines, even if the whites can also cause it, and it comes by the solid parts of the grape, mainly skins, stem or seeds. They can also be achieved during the wine aging in containers as barrels, foudres or any other wood containers, including clay or mud.

Methodology

We evaluate astringency by means of linear scales of 11 points) from 0, null perception to 10, cler and very intense perception). To train our panellists we developed reference patterns for each scale zone: (0-2: low scale zone, 2-5 average-low scale zone, 5-7: average-high scale zone, 8-10 high scale zone).

Due to our previous experience with sweetness or acidity patterns, we had it clear that when it’s about elaborating 4 moorings or patterns of reference for a scale of 11 points, the most effective is to have a base wine which can be modified in order to cover the entire scale zone and achieve patterns easily reproducible and constant.

The market offers us commercial tannins which can be used at oenological level. We choose to use two different types, the grape tannins (more exactly of seed) and those comimng from wood.

Our first base wine was a red wine (Garnacha, Cariñena and Tempranillo from vintage 2016 Catalunya) to which we added different concentrations of tannins with the aim of creating an ascending scale. First results weren’t good due to the fact we did not consider the difference between samples. One of the reasons was that the base wine was already very astringent.

The second trial we carried out was with a red base wine with slight tannic structure, a Pinot Noir from vintage 2016 from Oregon. We added different concentrations and this time, following the use prescriptions of the commercial tannins, we let the samples stand for a week. After one week, we tasted them and the resut was satisfactory. The samples had an increasing sensation of astringency.

We used the seed and wood tannines separatedly, because each one of them, even if in similar quantities, give sensations of different intensity We note that wood tannins  are more perceived on the front part of the palate, inside the lips and and in the front part of the gums. Seed tannins ae more perceived on the tongue and the lateral parts of the palate. Even if are fifferent sensations, our panellist are analysing now only the astingency intensity, not the perceiving zone.

One of the aditional trials which was carried out was to mix both tannins in a base wine to observe if a more reliable sensation to a real wine was achieved, but the results were discarded due to the fact that both sensations weren’t well integrated.

Final patterns are elaborated with a red base wine of Pinot Noir from vintage 2016 (Oregon) with the following concentrations:

Tasting protocol

We had the access to a study which proves that the tannicity accumulates in our palate. Here we found one the the main difficulties to which we confronted when training our panellists on this characteristic, same as we evaluate it nowadays. During the trainings we chose to give a green apple to the wine tasters to help cleaning their palate amongst sample and sample and also in order to avoid its saturation.

In order to evaluate better the astringency, we also created a wine tasting protocol:

  1. Taste the wine ditributing it well all over the palate, as well as between the teeth and gums.
  2. Spit the wine.
  3. Immediately after analysing how our palate behaves focusing on if a roughness or dryness sensation is perceived, on the tongue, gums and icluding on the teeth.
  4. Maybe is even difficult to salivate after tasting an astringent wine.

Alcohol sensation and alcohol integration

It is meant by alcohol sensation the ability of a wine to generate a warm sensation, caustic or including abrasive (if it is not well integrated) on the palate.

Intense alcohol sensation usually is given in the wines which are elaborated in warm regions. It Is the case, for instance, of the Mediterranian or South of France. Due to the average high temperatures in maturity periods, the grape has a higher potential grade.

Alcohol integration is the wine ability to keep in harmony the elements which compound them, in this case the alcohol. In general, we don’t find alcohol integration in some wines which are of low quality or which has suffered an unfavorable evolution, because of unexpected changes or too long periods of aging, amongst others.

Methodology

Alcohol sensation is evaluated by mens of a linear scale of 11 values (0-10). In order to train the wine tasters to rate a wine in the different zones of intensity, we use reference patterns.

We search for a wine with a low alcohol content (10,5%) and starting from there we added different alcohol concentrations to obtain an ascendent scale.

Final content:

(Base white wine) 10,5%
13,5%
14%
14,5%
15%
15,5%
16%

Even if the alcohol was of wine origin, the sensation produce don the palate was totally caustic and abrasive didn´t remain at all integrated.

We tried to make a hidro-alcoholic solution with different concentrations to see if we could create a similar sensation to that of a wine using less quantity of alcohol. But the result was far from the sensation we were searching for.

For this reason, we decided that the best was to use the following real wines:

After training the Tasting Panel in alcohol sensation, we thought as appropriate to evaluate if it was well integrated as the whole with the wine or, on the contrary, was producing a discrepant or caustic sensation. Analysing this characteristic, we could understand better the nature of the evaluated wine and they would be one of the few characteristics together with the deffects that we could rlate with the quality of wine or its abilty to be consumed.

This characteristic is evaluated according to the discriminatory tests, which consist in answering to the question if the analysed sample contains or not this specific characteristic (Yes/No).

After the experience of creating the alcohol sensation patterns with base wine and wine alcohol, was easy to create a reference pattern of non alcohol integration. We elaborate it as follows:

A red base wine (Garnacha, Cariñena of Tempranillo 2017 from Catalunya) with 15 ml wine alcohol at 83%.

Tasting protocol

  1. Tasting the wine
  2. Distributing it well on the palate and evaluating if it causes a warm or caustic sensation.
  3. Spit the wine.
  4. Evaluate if the preceived sensation on the palate immediately after spiting the wine is of warm, caustic or abrasive.
  5. If this were abrasive, we would consider that the acohol it was not well integrated. 

Silky mouthfeel

We mean by silky or fat sensation the wine ability of creating a lubricant effect or a greasiness sensation on the palate. It is also defined as the oil or grease sensation, which can give a nurriture in contact with the tongue surface, either by the reléase of compounds which provide this sensation during tasting or after being swollen.

This attribute is a characteristic that many wines have, especially white wines which have an aging process into the barrels with its lees.

Methodology

This characeristic is also evaluated with discriminatory trials, answering the question if the analysed sample contains, or not this specific characteristic (yes/no).

To present this sensaitionto the panellists we use real nurriture which can cause this greasiness sensation as for instance soy milk or Greek yoghurt.

Once they understood and learnt how to identify the characteristic, we selected two real wines to train them how to recognize this characteristic in a wine.

The patterns were the following:

Tasting protocol

  1. Taste the wine.
  2. Distribute it on the palate and evaluate if causes a greasiness or grease sensation.
  3. Spit the wine.
  4. Evaluate the sensation of oil, grease or lubricant effect on the lips or palate.

Fluidity

Fluidity is the ability that a wine has to slide on the tongue. Friction sensation, tactile sensation on the tongue and gums. It is important to remind that less friction has on the tongue, more fluidity has the wine.

Wine fluidity can vary according to its structure, usually more structured, tannic and alcohol wines use to be less fuid.

Methodology

To evaluate this characteristic we choose to use a linear scale of 5 points (low. Low-average, average, avaerage-high and high), due to the fact the panellists felt more comfortable than using a scale of 11 points.  We consider there are not such significant differences between the wines as using a large scale.

To train the panellists, the option was to present the characteristic by means of nurriture. They compared, using a small straw, the speed at which was flowing on a surface (for instance, a plate) the liquid low-fat yoghurt and full-fat yoghurt, checking that one did it slower and showed more sesistance than the other one, and therefore it was lees fluid.They also carried out the same exercise with nurriture as low-fat milk, full-fat milk, low-fat milk cream, milk cream with high-fat content and condensed milk.  .

Once the characteristic was understood we chose real wines to try to evaluate this sensation in a wine. The used patterns were the following:

Tasting protocol

  1. Taste the wine.
  2. Distributing it well on the palate and evaluate how it is going along the tongue surface from the tip of the tongue to the posterior side.
  3. It can also be evaluated from the glass, analysing the liquid resistance when flowing.

Volume

We mean by volume the enveloping wine ability on the palate, that is, the wine ability to create a peak sensation insie the mouth cavity. We imagine it graphically as a sphere.

Volume is a wine quality that both white wines and red wines are able to produce. We refer to an expanding sensation in the mouth.

Methodology

Volume is evaluated with a small linear scale of 5 points the same as fluidity. We consider there aren´t significant differences to evaluate this characteristic on a larger scale.

We elaborated an intensity scale starting from a base wine to develop the patterns, modifying it with different concentrations of glicerol. Glycerol (C3H5-(OH)3) is an alcohol of the wine and we observe that, when this is in high quantities, the wine has the ability to create a greasiness and volumen sensation on the palate.

Knowing this fact, we modify a base wine with different concentrations of glicerol, but we didn´t have the expected result. We couldn’t confirm the intuitive rule of more glicerol, more volumen.

Finally, we choose to use the following real wines:

Protocolo de degustación

  1. Llevar el vino a la boca, prestando mucha atención al momento en que pasa entre los labios.
  2. Conducir el vino para que pase entre la parte superior e inferior de la lengua cuando lo inserimos en la boca.
  3. Cuando el vino esté dentro de la cavidad bucal, hacer un movimiento ondular con la lengua para analizar la envergadura del vino o su capacidad para envolver el paladar o expandirse, creando una sensación de amplitud.

Tasting protocol

Taste the wine, paying attention to the momento when it runs between the lips.

  1. Conduct the wine to run between the superior and inferior side of the tongue when we introduce it in the mouth.
  2. When the wine is inside the mouth cavity, make an undulating movement with the tongue to analyse the wine span or its ability to surround the palate or expand, creating an extent sensation.

Weight

We mean by weight the wine ability to produce a weight sensation on the tongue. We imagine it graphically as the one which would refill the sphere (volume). More weight has the wine, more refilled will be the sphere.

Weight is one of the most difficult sensations to describe. It is one of the characteristics which we find with more intensity in red wines, specifically in those with a big structure and tannic composition, as well as high alcohol content.

Methodology

Weight is evaluated with a linear scale of 5 points same as fluidity and volumen. There is not enough differency between the wines to evaluate weight on a scale with more values.

At the begining we thought more tannic wines had more weight, but after we carried out the astringency trials we noted that not always was like this because ther isn’t any direct relationship between the tannins and the weight. The same as for alcohol, not for adding wine alcohol to a wine this increases its weight. With this knwoledge we believed that the best to obtain some feasible and representative patterns was to use the following wines:

Tasting protocol

  1. Taste the wine.
  2. Distribute it over the palate, puting it on the tongue and keeping it static.
  3. Evaluate the weight and thickness sensation that prints on the tongue.

Conclusions

We think we have found a valid and complete way to evaluate its intensity, after the experience of defining the reference terms to tactile sensations of the wine, creating its rpatterns and training the panellists with them.

With these characteristics we can have a global view and the most important, objective; to define the effect a wine can produce when it is in our mouth cavity.

With this experience we could also unify the used terminology in our area, clarifying concepts as the weight or volume of a wine. However, and even if they are not concepts we use directly, we define other terms used frequently in our area when it i defined the passage of a wine by mouth, as texture or body.

Without any doubt, this part of tactile sensations has been one of the most difficult to develop at global level from all the training process of the Panel. Here we face the most subjective part of those we carried out until now. The standardising of terminolgy with which we define certain concepts is a key point to communicate in a more precise and clear way.   .

We have to consider that all this terminology have been developed under our own criteria, starting from our experience and knowledge.

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