How to taste: Mouth

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Mouth in terms of aroma, ‘flavour’ in its narrow sense, the mouth, or palate as it is sometimes called, usually merely confirms the impressions already apparent to the nose when some vapour escapes the mouth and reaches the olfactory bulb via the retronasal passage. Many tasters take in a certain amount of air over their mouthful of wine to encourage this process (and are often mocked for the accompanying noise).

The main function of the mouth in the tasting process is to assess the texture and measure the dimensions rather than the character of a wine by assessing sweetness, acidity, bitterness, saltiness, and umami if any, viscosity, and tannin level. Monitoring the combination of sweetness, viscosity, and any sensation of ‘heat’ gives a good indication of the likely alcohol content of any individual wine, ethanol tending to leave a burning sensation in the mouth. The insides of the mouth may also register the texture, analysing the impact of the tannins. For this reason, it is a good idea to rinse the mouth thoroughly with wine so that all possible taste receptors may come into contact with it—another reason why wine tasting looks both ridiculous and disgusting to outsiders.