Making Sense of Wine

Dr Wend Parr

I attended a fascinating masterclass recently on wine sensory evaluation given by Dr Wendy Parr from Lincoln University in New Zealand.

When you taste a wine there are three things to consider: the person doing the tasting (physiology and psychology), what is in the wine glass (chemical composition) and the interaction between the two. "The tast of the bottle is not just in the bottle it is in your mind."

It was fascinating to taste wines without seeing them and find out that it wasn't that easy to tell the colour. Also, tasting wine with a nose clip made them much more difficult to "taste" as the nasal passage plays a key role in taste as well as smell.

We learnt how to categorise wines in terms of how sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savoury they are and also how the order in which you taste wines can influence your judgement. It was comforting to learn that wine experts often get things wrong; I felt that one of the most important messages was to trust your own judgement.

We finished with a blind tasting of six wines and later learnt that four were Sauvignon Blanc (two from France and two from New Zealand) and the remaining two were produced from the Bacchus grape in England. Amazing how the same grape varieties from different regions can produce such different flavours. The Bacchus wines were excellent but nobody guessed the origin or the grape variety!