Wine 101: Taste

The Human Tongue

The human tongue is made up of four general “taste” regions – Sweet, salty, acidic and bitter. On the tip of your tongue is where you perceive the sweet taste. Toward the sides of your tongue, but still near the front, is where you perceive the salty taste. Notice, that these two tastes are close together – sweet and salty. Toward the back of your tongue, but still on the sides is where you perceive acid flavors. And finally, on the very back part of your tongue are where bitter flavors can be found. Again, notice that bitter and acidic flavors are closer together.

The center of your tongue is the “sweet” spot (so to speak). This is where your palate brings those flavors together. To taste a wine effectively, you should draw a small amount of wine into your mouth and allow it to coat your tongue. Immediately, your palate will be filled with flavors. Some will be sweet. Some will be bitter. Now, draw a small amount of air into your mouth while the wine is still there. This will immediately unlock another round of flavors. This is where you may pick up some salty or acidic sensations. Now, finally, it’s time to swallow the wine. It helps to close your eyes and feel the sensation of the wine flowing off your tongue.

What impression did the wine leave? Did it taste full and rich first and then finish tart or bitter? Was it thin or weak on your palate and then finish a little more smooth and juicy? Try noting your impressions of the taste of the wine next to your impression of the bouquet of the wine. Are they similar or different?

The truth here is that there is no right answer. Taste is highly subjective and at the discretion of your own palate. Ultimately, these tips will allow you to identify what you like and don’t like in a wine or varietal. That way, you can shape your purchasing habits and wine decisions for repeat enjoyable experiences.