What we usually call flavour experience hides something complex. In fact, when we sip some wine, in the instant it pass through the mouth, three of our senses get on: the taste, the touch and the smell. These ones send to you brain at the same time three different kind of sensations, respectively the taste sensation, the tactile sensation and the aromas sensations. This is a more complex mechanism comparing to the two former experiences, because the determinant variables are hundreds: therefore, it is also correct speaking of "taste-touch-smell experience" but, for convenience and brevity, we call it always in the short way, "flavour experience".
The gustatory perception is the sense that allows us to perceive the tastes. The main ones are sourness, the bitterness, the sweetness and the saltiness. It exist also a fifth one, called Unami, that is very present in food rich of proteins (e.g. meat), but it is not useful for our purpose.
The touch is the sense that allow us to perceive the stimuluses on the tongue surface, thank to sensible receptors. The astringency (only in red wines), the wrap-around feeling, the sparkling sensation, the alcoholic sensation and the temperature are all tactile feelings and, as such, can be perceived both singularly and together.
Finally, the smell is the sense that allows us to perceive the aromas, that are the odors perceived by the retro-nasal cavity. In fact, when the wine is in the mouth, when it is "chewed" and then swallowed, it releases a further set of compounds that reach the nasal mucus from the throat and join to the scents originally perceived by the nose. This "second way" of perception of odors is indispensable to the taste and to the touch we just saw and, given the number of perceptible smells, it is also the most complex one.
Let's start to draft the flavour experience, considering two basic profiles that can collect the most part of sensations: the softnesses and the hardnesses. Both of them contain taste, tactile and olfactory elements.
Wrap-around feeling, sweetness, the soft aromas and the alcoholic sensation are the main hardness sensations. Both individually and together can result pleasant and, for this reason, are commonly called softnesses. To help you, try to imagine drinking a syrup (wraparound feeling), eating sugar (sweetness), inspiring the scent of a peach (soft aromas) and drinking alcohol (alcoholic feeling).
Acidity, bitterness, hard aromas, sapidity, astringency are the main sensations of hardness. Even these, both individually and together, can be less pleasant than sweetnesses or, at least, sharper; try to eat a lemon (acidity), drink a coffee (bitterness), inspire the smell of wet grass (hard aromas), eat a spoon of salt (sapidity) or eat a caco (astringency).
Intensity and equilibrium
Once the contours of softness and hardness are outlined, the further study is to evaluate the intensity of individual components (e.g. how strong is acidity?) and of the whole category (e.g. how strong are softnesses? ). To do this, like for olfactory experiences, you have to start from a little bag of knowledge, enough to make a realistic comparison between the various wines that we taste. From time to time we try to memorise (or simply to write on a notebook) the feelings tried by tasting a certain type of wine, so we can make the comparison at a later time.
The flavour intensity, as the olfactory intensity, describes the wine strength in terms of taste, touch and smell. As high will be the flavour intensity, as will be our taste, tactile and aroma feelings.
The equilibrium is the meeting point between hardnesses and softnesses that we find always in a good wine. It is the compromise, the midway, yin and yang, true and complex essence of the grapes and of the winemaking, elusive and attractive at the same time.
Body and persistence
If we take off the water and the alcohol from a wine, what remains is the body. It is the "magic powder" that concentrate all the elements from the grapes (during the vinification) and from the wood (during the ageing) that characterise the wine in visual, olfactory and flavour terms.
When we speak about body, it is good not to go beyond extremes: a wine with a strong body, full of colour and taste, could result heavy and not easy to drink; while, at the opposite, light body wine, a tenous and almost tasteless could be quite insignificant.
Finally, the persistence considers all three sensations and measures the permanence time of the flavour. As longer is such time, as higher is the wine quality.