Archive for May, 2015


Terms to help you understand wine and taste better

Terms such as body, aromas and flavors, tannins, oak, acidity, and dry versus sweet clarify the characteristics in wine. Understanding the role each element plays in wine perks up our tastebuds when we drink a glass of wine. Amazingly, they vary from varietal to varietal and wine to wine. Some are constituents in the grape and others are determined by the choices a winemaker makes during a vintage. So let’s take one at a time.

Body refers to the weight, heaviness, viscosity or sense of richness in wine. More concentration flavors and body are a result of high alcohol. sugar, and/or oak. It’s a similar sensation to the way whole milk, cream, butter and a marbled slice of roast beef coats your tongue. White and rose wines are generally lighter in body than reds, but reds run the gamut from light to full-bodied.

Aromas and flavors are inherent in a grape’s varietal. The soil vines grow in and other elements of terroir dramatically affect the flavors and aromas in wine. It’s why a winemaker matches soil and terroir to particular varietals. Aromas play a vital role in determining what we taste since our noses  lead the way to taste. Because we all smell and taste differently, everyone sharing a bottle of wine detects different aromas and flavors. Several variations of wine aroma wheels offer a dazzling spectrum of aromas, including fruity, floral, and savory as well as a number of unpleasant aromas, like funky, earthy and wet cement.Certain compounds that contribute to  texture are found in grape skins, seeds, and stems that create tannins in wine. Tannins in wine or strong black tea leave a sensation of dryness the mouth and tongue. The scale of tennis varies strongly in red wine. Beaujolais and roses have few tannins.  Merlot is kinder on the tongue than some Cabernets, although winemakers are managing tannins better to make the wine more approachable earlier.

Oak barrels lend an amazing ability to develop flavors and aromas in wine. Vintners can choose wood from forests in a number of countries. French wood from certain carefully culled forests are the most desirable and expensive, but oak from many countries including the U.S., and Slovenia are popular. Vintners request a cooper to toast barrels from light to heavily charred. These variables, along with new versus old oak, impact on wine’s flavors, tannins, and structure.

In wine, the opposite of sweet is dry. The amount of residual sugar in wine after fermentation determines sweetness. Acidity can balance out some sweetness, just as lemonade can range from tart to super sweet.

Acidity in wine comes from natural acids in grapes. or acids that are added by the winemaker during the winemaking process. Acidity depends on the varietal and terroir. Grapes in cooler regions have higher acidity.