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All about Grapes, Wines and Tasting

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So, why do we taste wines? There are two different reasons, both of them important:

1) The first reason is that we want to evaluate, objectively, the quality of a wine. It's the most professional reason: it is not important if we like that wine, all of us will always have our personal preferences. What we are after, here, is to decide whether the wine was properly made, if it has any desease or adulteration, if it is still young or old already, if it can still improve or not. This is what it's important to establish, whether it is a wine we have lovingly chosen for a special occasion or a wine judged by an official tasting commision.

2) The second reason is that we want to fully enjoy a wine, smelling its fragrance, looking at its colours and savouring its tastes, slowly, in order to get every single sensation from it. It is the just award for the person who was able to choose well.
Am I exaggerating? We'll see.

Having decided why we taste, we can now see how we taste. For what we've said, tasting a wine is an experience that involves all our senses, with the exception, perhaps, of hearing (we'll discuss this).
Let's talk thus of what are called the Visual Analysis, the Olfactory Analysis and the Taste Analysis. And just to make everyone happy, we'll talk a little bit of the Hearing Analysis, too.

The fragrance of a wine is the complex result of smells having very different origins; we can organize them in the following four categories:

Varietal and Pre-Fermentation Aromas (or Primary) These are the aromas that wines inherit from the grapes: there are some vines that are so aromatic, Italian Muscat or Cabernet for example, to leave an important, preponderant mark in the wines made from them.
Besides them, there are some aromas you cannot perceive in the grapes but that become evident in the period between the harvest and the beginning of fermentation (Pre-fermentaion aromas); these aromas generally taste bitter and their presence is higher if grapes have been harvested too early or if they have been too much triturated.
Both these aromas tend to disappear with age (or to be covered by other ones, as we'll see); thus, wines with an important varietal mark are to be drunk young.

Fermentation Aromas (or Secondary) We include here the aromas that come out or are born during the fermentation process; they are greatly caused by hydrolysis that lets hidden aromas to come out. The process is very similiar to what happens when you eat something: its taste at the beginning is not very strong, but as your saliva attacks the food, you can perceive a much richer flavour; this is owed to the saliva's enzymes, the same enzymes we can find during the fermentation process.
In this category we can put all the flowery and fruity aromas, typical of all young wines. These aromas, too, tend to disappear or to be coverd with age.


"Remuage" over "Pupitres"

After these three years, the Champagne is ready, that is, it has developed all the aromas and fragances, besides the effervescence, that we expect in this product. The problem, now, is the removal of the deposit that, as we've seen, has formed in the bottle. The idea is, simply put, to make the deposit go down the bottle towards the cork and then remove the cork and the deposit together. To achieve that, the bottles are put in the "pupitres", that are a sort of inclined, wooden planes able to host the bottles of Champagne "upside-down", letting the deposit come down from the bottom of the bottle to the cork. This descent is helped by what is known with the name of "Remuage", that is a gentle shaking and turning of the bottles performed every now and then. This activity generally lasts a couple of months.