Parladivino / Wine history
It is possible to carry out a chemical analysis that will supply information concerning a wine’s individual elements. However, chemical analyses cannot allow you to appreciate the quality, harmony or equilibrium of a wine. These aspects can only be detected by tasting, which means sensory analysis that involves the organs of sight, smell and taste, and are therefore known formally as organoleptic examination. The first part of this analysis is the visual examination, which is effected by evaluating limpidity (the lack of particles in suspension) and transparency (the latter only for red wines). The color, fluidity and (for sparkling wines) effervescence are also evaluated.
It is interesting to observe the gestures of the expert taster, or, for that matter, the sommelier, as they prepare to taste a wine. To evaluate a wine's limpidity, the sommelier holds the glass up to the light at eye level (the flame of a candle is sufficient). He/she then inclines the glass at a 45° angle against a white background. The sommelier can manipulate the glass so that the wine is distributed onto the sides of the glass, permitting him/her to evaluate the color of the central and peripheral area, called the bordo, or edge. When the glass is turned in a rotary fashion, the wine rises virtually to the rim. The sommelier than stops turning and evaluates the fluidity of the wine by observing the liquid as it descends along the surface of the goblet, forming arcs that can be wide or narrow. He/she then evaluates the consistency of the wine on the basis of the shape of the axes. Those forms are created by ethyl alcohol, sugars and other substances.
Much information can be drawn by examining a wine’s color. The intensity of the color is indicated by the quantity of the coloring substances, which depends upon the microclimate, the terrain and the quality of the grapes. Tonality, instead, is conferred by seasonal conditions and the ripeness of the grapes at the time of harvesting; the duration of maceration; the various techniques of vinification; the use of wooden containers and other factors.
The shading of the whites, rosés and reds provides a wide chromatic range. The whites include straw-yellow tonalities with greenish reflections, more intense straw yellows, and golden and amber colors. In turn, the reds can present such tints as bluish red, purplish violet, ruby red, brownish red, garnet and hints of orange. A sparkling wine’s effervescence is its first element to be observed. The taster assesses the consistency of the bubbles, their density and the endurance of the foam. The olfactory examination is indispensable in determining whether there are defects due to external agents (odor of the cork, mold, wood, etc.) that could cause the wine quality to deteriorate. The olfactory assessment helps complete (and confirm) the information obtained through visual analysis. The components responsible for the aromas are all volatile substances found in the wine. With laboratory instruments, it is possible to detect about 200 to 220 odorous compounds belonging to different groups of chemical substances like aldehydes, ketones, fatty acids, esters, terpenes and many others. These compounds, which possess a determined structure and nomenclature, combine in multiple ways to provided varied scents that are grouped into families: fruity, floral, dried fruit and jams, herbs, spices, toasted, animal, ethereal and other different scents. Examining the flavor is the third and final phase. It is the moment of synthesis and verification of what had been supposed in preceding examinations in respect to the quality of the wine, its evolution and its correspondence to type (production zone and variety). In addition, it evaluates the general structure, the equilibrium reached among the various gustatory components and the consequent intensity and persistence. The principal instruments for effecting this evaluation are the taste buds, but not without the help of the olfactory senses. The tongue perceives the four fundamental flavors (sweet, acidic, salty and bitter), plus the tactile and thermal sensations, while the nostrils determine the difference between one wine and another (the odour that is perceived when expiring or exhaling). In case someone has got a cold, the odour is perceived in an extremely mitigated way and only the flavors are recognizable on the taste buds of the tongue. In addition to the fundamental flavors, there are other factors contributing to the final taste of a wine: tannin, an astringent substance found in red wines, alcohol, effervescence (only for sparkling wines), density and others. The way in which the components blend enables the sommelier to make a final and comprehensive judgment.
The sommelier brings the goblet to his lips, takes a small sip, and swallows it. Then proceeds to the real tasting, sipping the quantity of a teaspoon of the wine, and then "chewing" it slowly.
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