How wine or cider “feels” in the mouth of a taster is such a rarely spoken about and close to the least understood aspect of sensory evaluation and yet one of the most important. The physical aspect of assessing “mouth feel” is simply taking about 15mL of the product into your mouth then working out how it feels. Having the chart pictured (available from the ASVO for $13.64 www.asvo.com.au) is super helpful and has many great terms to bring out at a tasting!
As a winemaker it’s a tightrope walk to make sure that the balance perfectly accentuates the aroma and flavour. This is the area that requires the greatest skill as minute tweaks can make a massive difference. Generally we are adding or removing certain components in the product to do so. In cider and white wine, one of the biggest influences is the acid level. In Australia, we are allowed to add natural fruit acid to help achieve stability and also change the mouth feel. It’s quite amazing to taste a product that has been transformed by the addition of a mere 0.5 g/L of acid. It can quite literally make it seem as though there is more fruit flavour that has been added as well!
Correspondingly, the “amount” of bitterness can also seem to change with a tweak in acid which is why most bittering compounds are typically removed from these products (fining) to highlight the pure fruit flavours. Red wine is a little different though as it relies on astringency as part of the allure to provide the “drying” in the mouth. The two big influences for a red wine are the compounds that naturally come from the grape skins/seeds and the use of oak in maturation.
One of the most delightful aspects to mouthfeel for me is bubbles! Cider and sparkling wine invigorates the palet, lifting as it were, the more subtle fruit and crafted complexities. Traditional methods of bottle conditioning can give some amazingly fine bubbles (bead) that enrich the flavours and aromas. It’s a long process that is very labour intensive, but absolutely worth the effort.