Family-StyleMillions throughout the world enjoy wine with meals, special occasions, and while just relaxing. But only a relative few can differentiate the characteristics of grape varieties, vineyard appellations, and vintages as accurately as a Master Sommelier.

Identifying what we like is simple. Answering precisely why can be another matter.

Differentiating among several wines in a blind tasting session can seem confusing to the untrained wine drinker. Knowledgeable wine drinkers use terms like “complexity,” “balance,” “bouquet,” “intensity,” and “length,” but what do these mean?

Factors that Affect the Taste of Wine

Visitors to Napa Valley come to enjoy the scenery, entertainment, incredible food, outdoor activities, tours, and, most of all, Napa wine tasting at more than 400 wineries. Napa Valley is blessed with unique soil diversity, elevation differences, and multiple microclimates that support many grape varieties in a relatively small area.

Variances in variety and growing conditions impact the ultimate wine quality. Warmer than typical weather may impart tropical flavors while higher elevation increases the acidity of the wines. Sea breezes, for example, can cause grapes to ripen at a slower rate while delivering a more consistent flavor than protected growing areas.

Besides the vineyard locations and grape varieties, other influences on wine taste and structure include:

Tannins: Present in the skins, stems, and pips in the grape tannins should harmonize with the fruit. Too much or less ripe tannins may be less pleasant.

Aging/Fermenting in Oak: Oak barrels used for aging wines can impart a substantial influence on the taste of the wines. Variances in the oak, a natural product itself, combine with the “toasting” or firing of the barrel material will further impact the finished wine flavors.