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Gustatory examination

What is a gustatory examination?

It represents the third phase of tasting and is used to evaluate the characteristics of a wine’s flavor that will confirm what has been concluded in the first two examinations. The important point of this phase is the identification of anomalous flavors due to alterations or possible defects that were not perceived in the first two phases.
How is it performed?
The first task to be carried out is the rinsing of the mouth with a small quantity of wine, which prepares the oral cavity for tasting. At this point, the taster should proceed with the introduction of another wine, which is taken into the forward part of the mouth. The taster sucks in air between the teeth to assure the volatilization of some substances and thereby the expansion of the gustatory sensations. The taster moves the wine around with the tongue to bathe the entire oral cavita and then swallows the liquid. The wine’s odors are exhaled through the nose with the mouth empty to bring the aromas to the nose. Chewing with the mouth empty will develop the aroma in the mouth, which permits evaluation of the wine’s Intense Aromatic Persistence or IAP.
All the actions of the procedure indicated above are necessary for evaluating the following parameters: intensity and persistence as well as the identification of the following sensations: SAPORIFIC (sweetness, acidity, sapidity and bitterness); tactile (false warmth, astringency, softness, consistency and thermal effects), and AFTERTASTE, the characterization of the SOFT components (sugars, alcohols and polyalcohols) and the HARD components (acids, tannins and mineral salts; the body of the wine, the EQUILIBRIUM between the soft and hard components.
What is gustatory INTENSITY?
It is provided by the impact of all the elements responsible for the flavor of the wine in terms of the effect secured on the mucus of the mouth.
What is the gustatory PERSISTENCE?
It is provided by the permanence (measured in seconds) of the sensations that linger in the mouth after a wine is swallowed.

SAPORIFIC SENSATIONS
The taste buds located in various parts of the tongue recognize four fundamental flavors: SWEETNESS, a sensation determined by the presence of sugars; ACIDITY, provided by the acids found in wine that provoke secretion of saliva; SAPIDITY, which is due to the presence of mineral salts, and BITTERNESS, which results from sensations determined by the presence of polyphenols and, specifically, tannins.

TACTILE SENSATIONS
THERMAL: It depends on the serving temperature of the wine. If it rises, the sweetness, softness and pseudoheat will become more perceptible. If the temperature is lowered, sapidity and astringency will increase. Acidity is not directly affected by variations in temperature but it is mitigated by raising the temperature, which brings out sweetness and softness.
PSEUDOHEAT: Due to the presence of ethyl alcohol in the wine, which produces sensations of warmth, burning and dehydration.
SOFTNESS: It is generated by polyalcohols (specifically glycerin), ethyl alcohol, sugars and colloids (pectin, for example).
ASTRINGENCY: This is an arid sensation in the mouth due to the presence of tannins—obviously those found in red wines.
PUNGENCY: This perception is due to the presence of carbon dioxide in the wine and it is registered as a slight stinging sensation. It is characteristic of spritzy or sparkling wines.
CONSISTENCY: It varies according to the quantity of the wine’s dry substances or the quantity of non-volatile substances present.

AFTERTASTE SENSATIONS
As already indicated in the olfactory analysis, the odorous essences are released after the wine is swallowed and the vapors of the oral cavity pass to the nasal passages. This olfactory sensation is called “aroma of the mouth” or “Intense Aromatic Persistence” (IAP).
SOFT SUBSTANCES
These substances are due to the presence of sugars, alcohols and polyalcohols.
The SUGARS are present in the grapes and, after alcoholic fermentation, they remain in minimum percentages in the form of residual sugars. If they are not completely transformed and are perceptible to the taste, the product is referred to as a sweet wine.
The ALCOHOLS present in a wine are formed during alcoholic fermentation. The most important is ethyl alcohol, the percentage of which in volume expresses the alcohol level of the wine.
The sensation perceived is that of of pseudoheat, which is due to the dehydrating capacity of ethyl alcohol.
The POLYALCOHOLS, which form during fermentation, produce a sensation of softness. The most important is uncolored and virtually flavorless glycerin, which if present in large quantity gives a wine a certain roundness.
HARD SUBSTANCES
They are due to the presence of acids, tannins and mineral salts.
The ACIDS are compounds that give a wine sensations of freshness. The most important are the PRE-FERMENTION acids (tartaric, malic and citric) and the POST FERMENTATION acids (lactic, succinic and acetic).
The TANNINS found in a wine derive above all from grapes (tannins and catechins) and are released from the skins and seeds. For that reason, their quantity in white wines is irrelevant since vinification is achieved without the maceration of the pomace. The tannins can be gallic or polyphenolic released by the wooden containers in which the wine has been matured (casks or barrels).
The catechin tannins provide astringent tactile sensations that are more energetic than those of the gallic type.
MINERAL SALTS provide a sapid sensation and are found in a wine due to different factors such as physical-climatic conditions.

THE BODY OF A WINE
The extract of all the non-volatile components (sugars, polyphenols, fixed acids, salts and glycerins) represents the dry extract or the body of the wine. There is less dry extract in white than in red wine.
GASTATORY EQUILIBRIUM
Gustatory equilibrium is the balance between soft substances (sugars, alcohols and polyalcohols) and the hard substances (tannins, acids and mineral salts) in a wine.

FINAL CONSIDERATIONS
After completing the three phases of sensory analysis (VISUAL, OLFACTORY and GUSTATORY), it is possible to draw final conclusions with the determination of the STATE OF EVOLUTION and the HARMONY of the wine.
STATE OF EVOLUTION
This represents a judgment on the wine under examination on the basis of its evolution (the wine’s age).
HARMONY
This represents a final judgment that sums up ALL that has been described in the sensory analyses, taking into account the logic of the three examinations and their level of quality.

By Massimo Castellani
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