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  • Writer's pictureRitz Jaffar

5 basic characteristics of wine you should know

Updated: Dec 6, 2021


The body is a combination of many factors, such as the variety, vintage, and alcohol

content, so it is difficult to generalize. Considering a wine's body like a glass of milk

can simplify matters, with skimmed milk representing a light wine, and cream

representing a full-bodied wine. As a rule, if a wine's taste lingers in your mouth for

longer than 30 seconds, it's probably full-bodied.

When pairing foods, the classifications play an influential role: light-bodied wines are

suited to lighter dishes, while heavy dishes, such as steak, call for a full-bodied wine

that can stand up to the powerful flavors of the meat.


In wine, residual sugar refers to the level of sugar remaining after winemaking. As a

result, sweet wines will have a higher sugar residue, whereas dry wines will have

converted all their sugars into alcohol.

Our first impression of wine will often be its sweetness, and while everyone's

sensitivity to it differs, you will taste it on the tip of your tongue. A mild tingling

sensation indicates sweetness. Sweet wines tend to have a greater viscosity, which

means they cling to the glass for longer.


As opposed to alcohol concentration, acidity gives a wine its sharpness - high acidity

wines are often tart, zesty, and lighter in the body as they come across as 'spritzy'.

'Well-balanced' wines are those that have the right balance of acidity, sweetness,

and tannin.

What are some ways to identify acidity? If you rub your tongue along the roof of your

mouth, you will feel a tingling sensation. Also, your mouth may feel extra wet, and

you may find yourself 'gleeking' - accidentally spraying saliva while yawning!


Tannins have a drying effect on the mouth, so wines that are high in tannins are often

mislabelled as dry wines. Frequently described as astringent, tannins are phenolic

compounds that add bitterness to wine - but tannin also contributes balance and

structure and helps wine last longer. The tannins in red wine may also be beneficial

to your health.

You can usually tell if a wine has a lot of tannins by the feeling your tongue gets after

drinking it. This is because it can leave your mouth feeling dry and bitter. In fact,

tannin-rich reds are a tasty accompaniment to red meat - the tannins help break

down the proteins in the meat, amplifying their flavour profile even more.


In terms of character, body, and classification, a wine's alcohol content will have the

biggest impact. There are wines that contain as little as 5.5% alcohol by volume

(ABV) or as much as 20%. The average wine contains 11%-13% alcohol by volume


Everyone has a different taste for alcohol. Our perception of alcohol is heavily

influenced by genetics. It can be bitter, sweet, spicy, oily, or all of those at once.

Lower-alcohol wines tend to taste lighter, while high-alcohol wines taste bolder and

oilier. There's no denying, however, that alcohol causes a warming sensation at the

back of the mouth and throat.

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