Every so often, you’ll find yourself confused by the descriptors on a bottle of wine. Winespeak, though sophisticated, can often feel like an entirely different language. Don’t be intimidated. Here is a simple guide to help you understand some common terms used to describe wine.
Acidity in wine works the same way lemon does in a dish: to enhance the original flavours. The tartness that comes from the acidity is what gives wines that refreshing kick that causes you to salivate and invites you to take a second sip.
Full-bodied, medium-bodied and light-bodied are terms you’ve probably heard before. These are used to describe the impression of weight that a wine leaves in your mouth. For example, a light-bodied wine would be more delicate and glide over one’s palate. A full-bodied wine, on the other hand, would feel heavier.
When the wine comes into contact with the tip of your tongue, the first thing you taste is its sweetness. This is derived from the level of residual sugar that was not converted by yeast into alcohol through the process of fermentation. Thus, the less the fermentation, the more the residual sugar and the sweeter the taste. In addition, sweet wines could also come about because of the addition of grape brandy to fortify it. Sweet wines are typically drunk with dessert or certain cheeses.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a wine that is described as “dry” contains little to no residual sugar.
Smell is an important component of tasting and enjoying wine. Aromas are strongly linked to the flavours of wines, and are derived from the types of grapes used and the so-called terroir of the soil and climate. For example, the aroma of wines can be described as fruity, floral, spicy or herbaceous.
While “aromas” are used for younger wines, the term “bouquet” is used to describe a collection of smells that have resulted from the processes of fermentation and ageing.
Much like cakes, wines, too, have various textures worth exploring. The texture of a wine is an important aspect of its personality as it adds dimension and balances the overall structure of it. Words such as smooth, rich and velvety can be used to describe how a wine feels on one’s palate.
Think of drinking a cup of strong black tea without any milk or sugar, or eating dark chocolate; the bitter and drying sensation is comparable to having a glass of wine that contains a high amount of tannins. Though often thought of as a negative characteristic, tannins are important as they add structure and complexity, and work as a natural preservative.
A term often associated with tannic wines is astringent. Such wines are drying and often have a harsh feel on the palate, causing your mouth to pucker, as though you have just sucked on a slice of lemon.
While swirling a glass of wine is said to make it taste better, the best way to determine a wine’s quality is through its finish: the lasting impression of flavour that lingers after a wine has been swallowed. Wines can either have a long or short finish.
– TEXT BY KIMBERLEY NG
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This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.