This week we celebrated Cap Classique Day and it made me think about the popularity of sparkling wines. What is it that distinguish them from still wines other than their association with all that is fun and celebratory? The bubbles of course! There is so much more to it, but those bubbles contribute a much-loved, though often underrated, taste sensation – texture!
Sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami – the taste sensations we all know. But in my opinion, texture is just as important and it does not get nearly enough credit. Taste motives much of our decision-making and it develops according to our exposure. Remember that map of the tongue indicating different taste receptors? While no one can deny the basic tastes, scientists are convinced that this map of the tongue is over simplified and inaccurate (read more) – and it doesn’t include texture.
Imagine the complexity of an Asian dipping sauce against the basic notes of salty crisps or sweet fudge. It is in these complexities and subtleties that foodies find their joy. Much of it is personal taste as well. One may enjoy more pronounced acidity, the other is addicted to sweet tastes and who can resist umami? But texture is a game changer. The smoothness of lemon curd makes the acidity a joy. The crunch of brittle makes it less sweet. The chewiness of a ciabatta distinguishes it from the crispy crust of the baguette or the buttery flakiness of the croissant.
“Texture, or mouthfeel, is, quite literally, how food feels in our mouth as we eat it. While often related to how much water is in a piece of food – and therefore how crisp it is – mouthfeel is also related to cohesiveness, graininess, smoothness, viscosity, fattiness…”, says voice & swallowing specialist Dr. Brett Heavner. (Read more)
Solid food releases flavour and aroma slower. In a liquid format, the same dish would taste much stronger. Crispy food is often associated with salty and fatty flavours, while a rougher texture (rather than smooth) is usually associated with acidity and freshness. Temperature has its unique influence on taste, but it also affects texture. Melt the chocolate and the sensation goes from hard and chewable to smooth and silky – and also sweeter. And who can enjoy something smooth and creamy without the association of indulgence?
Texture is also important when it comes to wine. We might feel that temperature has a bigger influence than texture when it comes to the taste of a liquid, but mouthfeel is a crucial part of how much we enjoy wine. A wine’s texture is determined by the balance of alcohol, sugar, tannins and acidity – and also the serving temperature. The range of textures can be experience as smooth, coarse, firm, sharp, round, creamy, waxy, velvety, plush or silky. (Read more)
Tannins are an important part of the texture in red wine. Wines with lower tannins like Pinot Noir can be smoother than wines with more tannin and a firmer mouthfeel, like Cabernet Sauvignon. Tannin comes from the grape’s skin, seeds and stems as well as the oak barrels in which the wine is matured.
Acidity also influences texture. Oak often tempers acidity and a barrel-matured white wine might taste “rounder” than a crisp white from a stainless steel tank. Malolactic fermentation changes harsher Malic acids into Lactic acids, also resulting in a smoother mouthfeel.
Fermentation also affects texture. The bubbles in carbonated drinks and sparkling wines bring a lot of interest to the palate and many of us enjoy that sensation. When it comes to Cap Classique and other sparkling wines made in the traditional Champagne method, there really is more to the texture of the wine than the bubble. The secondary fermentation and lees contact balance the crispness of the bubble with a luscious creaminess.
There are many reasons why Cap Classique is such a popular wine, but I think its texture is what makes it so refreshing, so versatile with food and so ultimately irresistible.