Identifying the Characteristics of Wine

Why is it important to be able to identify the characteristics of wine? Because it will help you discover what you personally like about wine, which will make it easier for you to find wines you’ll enjoy. Everyone has a unique palette. Understanding these characteristics of wine will help you understand exactly what it is you like about wine and what you don’t.  


One of the first characteristics most people notice about wine is its sweetness. Do you enjoy a sweeter wine or a wine that’s drier? Sweet wines are obviously sweet, but dry wines can also have a hint of sweetness to them. The sweetness comes from the residual sugar that is left over in the fermentation process. The sweetness of a wine is one of the easiest characteristics to identify since it’s a flavor everyone is familiar with.  


The acidity of a wine plays a big part in how the wine tastes. Wines with higher acidity levels tend to be more tart and sour. It’s what makes wine taste zestier and may make the wine feel lighter. The higher the acidity, the more the wine will make you salivate, just like foods with high acidity.  


What exactly are wine tannins? Tannin in wine is the presence of phenolic compounds that add bitterness to a wine. These compounds can be found inside the grapes skin. Tannins are mostly found in red wines but can be added to other kinds of wine by using oak barrels that have tannins absorbed into them.  

So, how do tannins taste and how can you know if they’re present in the wine you’re tasting? They taste bitter and the bitterness often lingers in your mouth. They also dry your tongue out and leave it feeling sort of fuzzy.  


Everyone tastes alcohol differently. It can be bitter, spicy, or even sweet for some people. However, everyone can identify the presence of alcohol by the warming sensation it gives you after you swallow the wine. The alcohol content varies based on what kind of wine you are drinking and how the wine was made. The fermentation process is what creates and determines the alcohol content found in the wine. Wines with higher alcohol content tend to taste bolder.  


Lastly, the body of the wine. The body is made up of all the other characteristics of the wine and how they work together. It’s the overall snapshot of a wine. When describing the body, people usually use the terms light, full, or medium bodied. Light bodied wines tend to have low alcohol and tannin levels, whereas full bodied wines are the opposite. You can usually tell if it’s full, light, or medium bodied by how the wine feels when it’s in your mouth. Use the other characteristics you just read about in order to identify the overall picture of the wine.  

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