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 Body, Texture, and Finish

A gentleman on the Discovery Channel was discussing the concept of body, texture, and finish. He spoke with unparalleled passion for his craft and stressed the finer nuances of detail that make both first impressions and leave lasting memories with every one of his customers. He also happened to be the paint shop manager at Ferrari. Aside from the sudden urge to own an exotic car (my wife would never speak to me again), I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to my passion for fine wine.

Emile Peynaud, the forefather of modern oenology once said, “There can be no vocabulary of tasting unless wines have complex qualities worthy of comment.

To uphold a certain degree of perspective (via an unknown author) "The drink serves little more than to quench one’s thirst or as a mechanism to wash down a swallow of food."

The vast majority of people drink what they like, when they like it, and put little thought into the process outside of those parameters. Ice-cold water is always popular - and certainly failsafe, soft drinks are still too common, while unsweetened iced-tea might be a newfound preference; the options are endless. For those interested however, there is a more productive angle to consider. Meal enhancement is how I view the subject. Of course the health conscious and dietary types might advocate that fluids are best consumed after the meal and not during. The thought of actually enjoying a glass of wine with the meal appears to be an afterthought here in North America. I also fear that we read between the lines about intimidation via the need for ‘proper pairings’ with options to either combine or contrast flavour intensities – at times perhaps an amalgamation of both.

There are certainly a few no-no’s in terms of food and wine combinations (read Pairing Tips and Tricks for a detailed summary), but in general a few basic guidelines will allow for an enhanced dining experience. Thinking beyond the obvious descriptors such as colour and fruit, three additional factors to consider when faced with selecting ‘the right’ bottle are its body, texture, and finish. The trio will always play second fiddle to more familiar terminology relating to aroma and taste. They also tend to be less obvious in the flurry of adjectives that adorn the back label of the bottle.

Assuming that you are not the person pouring the wine, body is first noticed in the tears that stream down the sides of the glass and then again by the weight or fullness of the wine in your mouth. The tears (or legs) reflect the percent alcohol by volume and relative sweetness of a given wine. A higher degree of alcohol will produce heavier tears that flow quite slowly. These wines also have a greater perceived mouth-feel or body, which until recently was the winning recipe and ‘new-world’ winemaking push. Of course, there is a place for everything and it is critically important to note that a full-bodied wine, while tantalizing to taste, is almost certain to overpower lighter-fare foods. It is better to reserve these big wines to serve alongside equally rich and high protein dishes.

The impression of texture spills over from a wine’s body and can take on many forms including effervescence (sparkling wine and frizzante style), viscosity or lack of (fortified and dessert vs. table wine), and tannin structure. Consider texture when pairing with food styles: a rich cream-based dish paired with wines that exhibit the same character i.e. a buttery Chardonnay is likely to be too much of a good thing. A better option might be to cut through the weight of the dish with a crisp, clean mineral-based wine; think creamy pasta with Pinot Grigio or even a flute of sparkling wine. Likewise, the delicacy of Pinot Noir is lost when we pair it with a dish that is too rich or spicy. In this case, consider a bolder wine such as those which are Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Nebbiolo based while saving lighter bodied wines like Pinot and Gamay for flavours such as salmon, pork or duck.

The overall quality of a given wine is indicated not only by its aroma and taste profile, but also by the length of its finish. Does the wine leave a lasting impression? One that fades immediately is said have little substance while those that linger on the palate represent a higher quality product and one with the potential to improve with age. Look for the word complexity in write-ups and in critics' reviews.

A wine that creates a lasting pause in the conversation is a finer example. The longer the pause, the greater the wine - in my opinion.

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