How Much Does Salt Affect the Taste of Wine?
By Paul Howard
Q: Where would you recommend I visit for the ultimate wine tour? Should I stick to southern France or Italy – or, in your opinion, would Australia or California be more rewarding?
James Hartnett, Leeds
A: All the destinations you mention are great candidates but it really depends on your own selection criteria. As it’s an ultimate tour let’s assume time, travel and accommodation is no restriction. You might want to consider places that offer the wines you like. I think variety is essential and offers a sense of discovery and sometimes a challenge. Countries with contrasting regions and styles are also good. Also consider accessibility and the level of wine tourist infrastructure – some classic regions have lagged behind in this respect.
Choose winegrower visits carefully. I prefer small artisanal producers, “natural” family winemakers where you can get into the vineyards. Some big quality producers are fascinating, especially if you have not seen large scale production. Language is also important – many speak English but others may be more restricted, so English speaking destinations may be more comfortable.
Most wine regions have natural beauty and that is an essential. Also consider culture and other activities such as food, art, history, music and sightseeing. Wine then has a sense of place, plus focusing solely on wine could get dull, especially for long-suffering partners. Weather-wise, do you like it baking hot or somewhere more temperate? Spring is a good time, winegrowers should have more time to see you. Using these criteria, New Zealand hits the spot for me, followed by Italy. Consider adding Spain/Portugal, South Africa and South America to your list as well. So many countries and so little time!
Q: Hello Paul: How much does salt on food affect the taste of the wine you are drinking? My husband laces his meals with the stuff and I can’t help thinking he’s ruining his tipple!
Laura Jackson, Horsforth
A: Salt acts as a flavour enhancer and so the attractions of adding salt to food are well known, just watch those TV chefs! Salt does affect the taste of wine, for good and ill. Salt and tannin are especially unhappy bedfellows – the combination tastes bitter, even metallic – so that ideal match of rare steak and a red Bordeaux could be spoilt by too much salt on the chips! On the other hand, salt and sweet is a classic, which is why blue cheese and dessert wines work well. If your husband usually adds plenty of salt to meals he will be habituated to these effects, which will therefore be less pronounced for him. If he reduces the amount of salt then the more natural flavours would taste bland temporarily. That’s worthwhile given it will help reduce blood pressure, but that is a different issue.