Wine – the basics
Wine is a very simple and natural product. Although the taste characteristics of wine can be very varied and complex, the basic elements that make a wine taste “how it tastes” are the same. The only thing that varies is the balance of these elements due to different grapes, growing regions and production methods.
Acidity – A natural part of any grape juice; the acids in red wine provide “bite” and give whites their tangy freshness. There are dozens of different kinds of acids and their resulting taste sensations. The sensors that detect acids are at the side of the tongue. A lack of acidity can make a wine too soft or “flabby.”
Sweetness – Where there is fruit there is always sugar. Sweeter fruit flavours are detected on the tip of the tongue and, just like acids, there are lots of them. Fruit flavours are often used in describing how a wine tastes – lemon, gooseberry or apples in whites; blackcurrant and blackberry for reds. The balance of fruit and acidity is the backbone to a wine’s structure and taste.
Alcohol – The degree to which the sugar has been converted to alcohol during the wine making will affect the level of alcohol present. Alcohol influences the aromas and flavours detected and is usually linked to the richness or “power” that a wine has.
Other Flavours – While acid, fruit and alcohol are distinct flavours, there are many other sensations from the wine and it’s production process. Bitter tannins from the grape skins and stems, or the oak barrels used in storing are just some of the factors that can add elements of flavour.