Ever wondered what you should be looking out for when picking a wine? We’ve definitely all been there! Thankfully there are some common features that are easy to understand when picking your next favourite drop. We’ll look at the five most common features that will give you a better chance of getting (and understanding!) what you love.
The best part about wine is everyone has a different experience and different tastes, but that is exactly why it’s hard to rely on wine rating websites, apps, or even people in your local bottle shop. This means the best way to learn is to go back to basics, find out what to look for in a wine and classify their fundamental traits - this way you know what you like best. To understand the basic features of wine you need to learn how to taste wine properly, so let’s dive right in!
The 5 basic features of wine
Also known as the level of dryness. Often the first impression of a wine is its sweetness - and that starts from the tip of your tongue, which immediately detects if the wine is one with plenty of sugar, or plenty of rich and ripe fruit flavours. There might be residual sugar from fermentation, from grape sugar incompletely converted to alcohol. Alcohol itself is also a sweet liquid, so higher alcohol wines can give the perception of a ‘sweet’ taste. Tasting sweet notes is a tingling sensation on the tip of your tongue, even dry wines can have a hint of sweetness to carry a larger impression of body.
How do you taste sweetness in wine?
This is often a misunderstood feature of wine. It is often referred to as the level of dryness in a wine as tannins are known to dry your mouth, some critics say the charming phrase ‘like sucking on a sponge’ - but if you’ve had a young but deep red, you’ll know what they mean! So what are wine tannins? Tannin in wine is the what adds the bitterness. It is the presence of phenolic compounds, for the sciencey people out there. This compound is found in the skins and seeds of the grapes as well as wood such as oak, which can also be added to the wine through the aging process. Why would you add tannins to wine you ask? Well tannin adds balance, complexity, structure and also plays a big part in making a wine last longer.
How does a high tannin wine taste?
Wines with high acidity can be called tart or zesty. For example, red wines are generally described as having more ‘tart’ features, whereas white wines are often described to have features similar to lemon or lime juice, aka ‘zesty’ features. A common mistake with acidity is tasting higher levels of alcohol. It is also common for wines grown in cooler climates to have a higher acidity.
How to tell a wine's acidity:
You will read about wines having many flavours or notes. A wine is often described by its main fruit flavour and tasting for fruit flavours in a wine can help better pick your preferences. Additionally, different growing regions can have an effect on the level of fruitiness that you taste in a wine.
Questions to ask when tasting fruitiness in a wine:
Light, medium or full-bodied wine? We’ve all heard these terms thrown around but what do they actually mean? Body can be the result of many factors, for instance wine variety, where it is from, the age (vintage), the alcohol level and how it is made. Full-bodied wines are big and powerful. In contrast, light-bodied wines are more delicate and lean. Medium-bodied wines fall somewhere in between.
Questions to ask when tasting body in wine
There you have it! Now is time to put your new insight into tasting wine to the test - so open a bottle for educational purposes :)
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Just in case you aren’t a Champagne pro, we’ve compiled a handy list of hints to up your game – with plenty of time before the festive season kicks off this year to get you into the groove!
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