In past blogs I have touched on a wine’s structure and balance. These are two relatively important items in the world of wine. The two terms have been on my mind lately. I am in Napa Valley this week to blend new vintages of our wines: a 2018 Tiedemann Adler’s Blend, a 2018 Glenwood Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2017 Glenwood Cellars Chardonnay.
What is a wine’s structure? Generally this refers to the relationship between the five basic elements or characteristics of any wine. These are acids, tannins, sweetness, alcohol and body. Many times the two terms structure and balance, although overlapping, are often confused with one or the other. Balance generally refers to a wine’s aroma, flavors and finish. Structure on the other hand describes the components (I mentioned earlier) that form the foundation of the wine.
If the wine’s structure, aroma (nose) and flavor are all in sync, (one isn’t greater than the other), the wine is considered to be balanced. The blending of the structural components, when done properly, will create a discernible structure that tends to age well and are much more suitable for cellaring and improve with time.
How does a wine with structure (or the lack of), taste? A wine that lacks structure may taste flat, while a wine with structure will have good taste and depth. Structure is about mouth feel (or lack of); the texture of the wine on your palate. Does the wine feel like it is coating the inside of your mouth or sticking to your teeth?
Let’s examine the five basic elements or characteristics of a wine:
Sweetness: Wine with a noticeable sense of sugar or lack thereof. You taste sweetness in wine by a tingling sensation on the tip of your tongue or a slight oily sensation in the middle of your tongue.
Acidity: Some define wine with large amounts of acidity as “spritzy.” Wines which are richer and well rounded will have less acidity. Acidity in wine will give you a little (less acidity) or a lot (high acidity) of a tingling sensation on the front and sides of your tongue. Some say your mouth might feel wet, like you bit into an apple.
Tannins: Tannins come from the skin, seeds and stems of grapes. A wine with lots of tannins is referred to as being tannic. Tannins are detected by the drying sensation felt on the teeth, gums, tongue and inner cheeks of your mouth. Tannins taste bitter and make your tongue feel dried out. On the finish you’ll feel bitterness and a dry feeling in your mouth.
Alcohol: Alcohol in wine is important as it contributes to a wine’s viscosity and body. You can judge a wine’s alcohol content by swirling the wine in your glass and then looking at the tears, or legs, that are running down the side of your glass; more legs or closer together means higher alcohol levels. Alcohol will tend to balance out tannins and sweetness. Alcohol in too large of a dose will overpower the fruitiness of the wine and make the wine taste unnecessarily hot on the finish.
Body: A wine is usually described as light-bodied, medium- bodied or full-bodied. Body is determined by many factors from variety, where it’s from, vintage, alcohol levels and how it is made. The body weight comes from the sense of alcohol in the wine and the sense of the feeling in the mouth and the wine’s finish.
All of these terms can be confusing or intimidating. My recommendation would be that you take wine structure one step at a time. Start with a wine’s body. Which do you prefer: fuller big-bodied wines or lighter-bodied wines or somewhere in the middle? Once you understand what your wine body preference is then move on to master tannins, acidity and sweetness…one component at a time. When you accomplish or master the components you’ll know for sure the kinds of wine you love.
July Wine Dinner
Our next wine club dinner, with a German theme, is planned for Wednesday, July 24, 2019. More information coming very soon about the menu and cost of this exciting dinner being held at the LEX 530 Metropolitan Event Center in Elkhart!
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Until next week,
Calendar of Events
- August 1 – International Albariño Day
- August 4 – National White Wine Day
- August 18 – International Pinot Noir Day
- August 29 – International Cabernet Day
- September 20 – International Grenache Day
- November 7 – International Merlot Day
- November 14 – International Tempranillo Day
- November 20 – International Zinfandel Day
- December 4 – Cabernet Franc Day
- December 20 – National Sangria Day
- December 31 – National Champagne Day