Admit it. Sommeliers and wine enthusiasts seem to speak a language that is too complex to understand, especially for those who are just getting into wines and still getting to know them. For instance, how can a wine which is obviously liquid be dry? How exactly does a “dew on a fresh spring day” taste like? Very few things are more complex than the flavour descriptions for wine.
Here’s a tip, though: Don’t focus too much on wine flavour and instead learn about structure.
Wine structure is the collection of elements that can be tasted in a wine, such as acidity, body, alcohol, sweetness, and tannin. It is not usually specified when ordering wine, but rather, drinkers will use flavor descriptors such as “fruity” or “sour” when describing what they’re looking for.
In simpler terms, different components of a wine’s structure can be interpreted as different flavors. To make sure you don’t pick the wrong wine, it helps to understand the language used to describe wines and the structure that creates those flavors.
There are five wine structure components: acidity, alcohol, body, sweetness, and tannin. What do these components actually mean, and how are they perceived when you taste wine? Let’s read on and find out:
When it comes to wine tasting, one of the most important components is acidity. This is because the acidity of a wine can play a large role in the beverage’s overall flavor profile and mouthfeel. Acidity, simply put, is the sharpness or tartness of a wine. It is derived from the naturally occurring acids in the grapes used to make the wine. Generally, white wines have higher levels of acidity than red wines. This is because white grapes tend to have thinner skin, which allows for more of the acids to leach out during fermentation.
When tasting a wine, acidity is usually the first thing you will perceive. It will usually be experienced as sharpness or tartness on the tip of your tongue. If a wine is overly acidic, it can have a sour or tart flavor, often making it difficult to drink. On the other hand, wines that are too low in acidity can taste flat and one-dimensional.
Alcohol is another critical component of wine tasting. Alcohol provides the wine with its signature “buzz” and contributes to its body and flavor profile. Alcohol levels in wine will vary depending on the type of grape used, as well as the fermentation process. Generally speaking, white wines tend to have lower alcohol levels than red wines.
When tasting a wine, the alcohol content will be noticeable as a warmth that spreads throughout your mouth. If a wine has too much alcohol, it can taste overly boozy or sharp. On the other hand, if the alcohol level is too low, the wine can taste flat and uninteresting.
When tasting a wine, its body can be perceived in a few different ways. A full-bodied wine will feel heavy on the tongue and have a higher alcohol content. It will also have more tannins, giving the wine an astringent or bitter quality. On the other hand, a light-bodied wine will feel thinner and more delicate on the palate and have a lower alcohol content and fewer tannins.
The body of a wine can also be determined by its color and aroma. A full-bodied red wine will have a deep, dark color, while a light-bodied white wine will be pale and straw-like in colour. In terms of aroma, a full-bodied wine will have a more intense and complex aroma, while a light-bodied wine will have a more delicate, subtle aroma.
Understanding the body of a wine is essential for properly evaluating its flavor and character. A full-bodied wine can have a more intense flavor, while a light-bodied wine can be more delicate and subtle. Knowing the body of a wine can also help you pair it with the right food. For example, a full-bodied red wine will pair better with a heartier dish, while a light-bodied white wine will pair better with a lighter dish.
When discussing the structural components of wine, sweetness is often overlooked. Sweetness in wine refers to the amount of residual sugar left in the bottle. This is usually determined by the level of ripeness of the grapes used to make the wine and the winemaker’s decision to allow some of the sugar to remain in the finished product. Sweetness can range from none to quite noticeable, and when it is present, it is usually balanced with the other components of the wine.
In terms of taste, sweetness in wine can make the flavor profile more complex and can provide a smooth, creamy texture. Sweetness is most often associated with white wines, though it can also be present in reds. Sweetness can also be used to balance out the other components in a wine, such as acidity or tannins.
When tasting wine for sweetness, pay attention to the finish of the wine. If it lingers on the tongue, there is likely some sweetness present. Sweetness can also be detected in the aroma of the wine. The aromas of sweet fruits, honey, and other sweet notes indicate sweetness in a wine.
Overall, sweetness in wine can add complexity and balance to a wine and can make it more enjoyable to drink. However, wines that are too sweet can be cloying and not very pleasant. So, it’s important to find a balance between sweetness and the other components in a wine.
Tannin is probably the most important of the five components and is responsible for the bitter and astringent taste in red wines. Tannins are polyphenols, a type of antioxidant naturally found in grape skins, seeds, and stems. During red winemaking, the grape skins, seeds, and stems are left in contact with the juice, allowing the tannins to leach into the wine. The longer the winemaking process, the more tannins can be extracted from the grape skins.
Tannins give the wine its structure and backbone, giving it its balance and complexity. They can be perceived in the form of a dry, astringent sensation that coats the mouth and gums, leaving them feeling dry and grainy. They can also be distinguished by a bitter taste and a slightly puckering sensation.
Tannins are a critical component of any wine and contribute to its overall structure and complexity. When tasting wine, it’s important to note the tannins and how they interact with the other components of the wine, such as acidity, alcohol, body, and sweetness. Understanding tannins can help you appreciate the complexities of different wines and help you identify what makes a wine unique.
Knowing More about Wine Structure Is More Important Than Learning about Wine Flavours
Knowing more about wine structure is more important than learning about wine flavours. Wine structure encompasses all the components that make up the composition of wine. This knowledge can help wine drinkers distinguish between different types of wines and identify the wines that best suit their preferences. Furthermore, understanding the structure of wine can lead to a better appreciation of the different aromas, flavours, and textures that make up a great wine. Therefore, it is essential for wine drinkers and those looking to make wine investments to learn about wine structure if they want to appreciate and understand the complexity of wine truly.
Cru Wine makes fine wine investment easier and simpler. Find out more about the wine investment services we offer!