Don’t you hate buying a bottle of wine on someone’s recommendation, and it turns out you can’t stand it? Don’t let that happen again. Once you understand these wine characteristics you will be able to choose your favorites more effectively.
Sweetness: wine characteristics for folks with a sweet tooth
According to Wine Folly, sweetness is what you feel on the tip of your tongue. Do your taste buds tingle? Sweetness can be caused by residual sugars which are leftover after yeast has turned the rest of the sugar into alcohol. Therefore sweet wines are often lower in alcohol because the yeasts did not convert all of the sugar.
Some people check wine “legs” or “tears” as an indicator of sweetness. The “legs” or “tears” are the droplets that remain gliding down the side of the glass after swirling the wine. According to Vinepair.com, wines with higher sugar content will have slower falling tears. However, wines with higher alcohol content also have slower tears, so this is not always a good indicator of sweetness.
If you like sweet wines, then you should try wine varietals such as Moscato, White Zinfandel, Port, and Sauternes. Port is often very concentrated. Therefore sip it from a smaller glass. It often has a higher alcohol content, so don’t get carried away!
Acidity: wine characteristics for crispness
Acidity relates to the tartness of the wine. You will feel a tingling sensation on the front and sides of your tongue when tasting a wine with high acidity. These wines also have a lighter body, which people sometimes refer to as crisp and refreshing. Acidic wines may also cause the roof of your mouth to feel gravelly.
People who enjoy acidic wines should look for Reisling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Grenache. According to TasteOhioWines.com, white wines generally have a higher acidity level than lemonade.
Not familiar with this wine lingo? Tannins come from the skins and seeds of the grapes. When wine is fermented with skins or seeds, the wine turns red. However, some Chardonnays are aged in oak barrels which transfers tannins to the wine.
Tannins are an astringent. They make wine last longer. When you hear that wine is good for you, that is due to the properties of the tannins. According to the Kansas Health System, health benefits include lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, plus a boost to the immune system. However, make sure to drink responsibly. Too much of anything is not healthy.
What do tannins taste like? Tannins taste bitter in the front of the mouth and the sides of your tongue. Wines with high tannins cause your mouth to feel dry after swallowing. You may have the same sensation in your mouth as after eating raw spinach or drinking strong tea.
Tannins help break down fats and proteins. Subsequently, they pair well with meat and rich sauces. If you are looking for a wine to pair with rich foods or if you just like tannin heavy wine, look for Nebbiolo, Petite Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Tannat, Shiraz, Malbec, and Sangiovese.
Alcohol: a very important wine characteristic
All wines are not created equal. Wine 101 teaches us that wine is created when grapes are fermented with yeast, turning the sugars into alcohol. However, the question is how much alcohol does wine usually have? While wine can range from 5.5%, like Italian Moscato d’Asti or some Reislings, they can also reach up to 20%, like Marsala. However, the majority fall between 11 and 13% alcohol. Wines higher in alcohol will have a bold taste. On the other hand, wines low in alcohol will taste light and fruity.
Wine drinkers use the term body to refer to the overall impression of the wine. Many factors come into play when discussing body. Grape variety, where the grapes grow, year of harvest, alcohol content, and how the wine makers create the wine, all influence a wine’s body.
Light bodied wines are easy to drink, can be paired with food or sipped by themselves. Picture what you would drink on a summer afternoon.
On the other hand, full bodied wines have a heavy feel in the mouth. In addition, they have bold and complex flavors. Consequently, they are meant to be sipped slowly, preferably with a meal.
Examples of light bodied wines are Reisling, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc. Full bodied wines include Zinfandel (not white zinfandel), Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec. If you prefer something in the middle try Merlot, Shiraz, Tempranillo, or Nebbiolo.
I hope you enjoyed reading about some basic wine characteristics. Now it’s time to find some wines. You might even want to join a wine club or just have some wines delivered right to your door.
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Donna Emperador is a creative blogger and copywriter. Donna believes in learning about different cultures while sharing good food and wine. She has lived in South Florida for over 20 years and enjoys spending time traveling and making wine culture easier to understand for readers.