Look-and-good-taste: A sensory feast

In our second contribution to the Look and Taste wine blog this week, we took a step back from our five wine tips to enhance your dining forever to assess the fundamental taste components of both food and wine.

Four basic taste sensations


Generally the first thing you taste as there are sweetness receptors on the tip of your tongue. Sweetness balances acidity in food and wine.


The taste that detects acidity, hence the balance to sweetness. Acidity provides refreshment or crispness, and causes the mouth-watering sensation you’ll get from citrus fruit and many white wines.


A vital component as a flavour enhancer in food and, although rarely detectable in wine, an important influence in complimenting the two.


Often unpleasant if unbalanced – think of bitter coffee, unripe olives or raw broccoli – but rarely attributed to wine. Related and often confused with bitterness is astringency, defined as dryness or roughness, and attributed to tannins in wine.

How these different senses interact is vital to how we experience and enjoy, or dislike, food. So, food that is too sweet or too bitter will taste overpowering and unpleasant, whereas food that triggers multiple senses in harmony will be balanced and more interesting.

This to me is the essence of how wine can accentuate food, and vice versa.

I commented last week that barring disastrous pairings, most wines won’t spoil most meals. However, get a wine-match right and you can experience true gastronomic heaven.

I noted with interest how, in the last week, Lar Veale of Sourgrapes.ie and Frank O’Brien of Robertfranciswine.ie took different attributes from similarly styled Rieslings to increase the enjoyment markedly different foods. Lar described the cutting acidity of New Zealand Riesling being “perfect for slicing right through the creaminess of goat’s cheese”, whereas Frank matched the delicate fruit of Australian Riesling with fish skewers.

As one of the truly great food wines – one that can compliment and accentuate all of the taste senses – there’s more to come on the greatest white grape of them all from this fan.

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