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An Anglo-Saxon riddle
I've slightly overcooked the title because the post itself is being served rare.
I was giving a talk about wine yesterday at the Cork Institute of Technology, in the course of which there was discussion of how some of the components of wine can be identified in the mouth: sweetness or dryness (the degree to which the fruit sugars of the grape have been fermented into alcohol) and tannin (the woody astringency that comes chiefly from grape skins and sometimes stalks) were the main ones.
The magic of the internet provides abundant examples of how to make these and many other identifications, but my riddle is to do with an element of wine tasting that is mostly overlooked, and which is at least as useful as fruit character in differentiating wines. I'm referring to what can be described by the charmless expression 'mouthfeel' or the more cryptic one 'texture'.
How do you discuss the very significant contribution of mouthfeel to a wine when your language doesn't allow you to?
Whether you care to use or recognize them or not, there are an enormous number of comparisons to fruit and flowers &c. that help suggest what a wine may smell or taste like. There's a reasonable number of terms that allow the tannic grip of a wine to be put into words.
But English, a language with a lot of words and a hefty literature, both technical and, well, literary, lets us down when we try to explain how a wine feels as you drink it. Light-, medium-, and full-bodied are very broad brushes. Oily, creamy, mouthwatering, crisp and the like are either faintly off-putting or simply don't do justice to the experience.
I'd go so far as to say we may be missing some of the pleasure in the wines we drink because we can't easily share this very significant feature of what makes them interesting and different to us. Perhaps, without the words, we don't even know what we think ourselves. It's a riddle to me.