Wine Characteristics | Simple guide to enjoying wine | 2023

Wine is a complex beverage that can have a wide range of characteristics. This is likely a key reason wine has remained popular since ancient times.
Key characteristics of wine include its color, aroma, flavor, acidity, tannins, and body. Each of these are a primarily a result of the grape varietal, fermentation process, and aging. There are also impacts of the climate and soil of the vineyards.
Let's take a closer look at each of these six characteristics and what they mean for the wine.
wine color
The color of wine can range from pale yellow to deep purple.
White wines are produced from grapes with green or yellow skins, while red wines are made from grapes with red or purple skins. Rosé wines are made from red grapes but are only allowed a short period of skin contact, resulting in a pinkish hue.
Factors that contribute to the color of wine include the grape variety and the aging process. Also, how long the grape skins are in contact with the juice during fermentation affect the color. Longer aging and skin contact generally results in darker red wine and less pale white wine.
The aroma of wine is often described as its bouquet or nose. Different grape varieties have distinct aromas. This includes the fruity aroma of a Chardonnay. the floral aroma of a Riesling, or the dark fruits of a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Fermentation also affects the aroma. For example, wines such as Chardonnay sometimes have a yeasty or bready smell. This is a result of leaving the yeast in contact after fermentation. Aging in oak barrels can add notes of vanilla or toast to the wine's aroma.
The aromas and flavors can often overlap in descriptions. As smell strongly impacts flavor.
The primary flavors in wine are fruit, such as blackberry or apple. There can also be secondary flavors, such as chocolate or tobacco. Some wines may also have a mineral or earthy taste.
Acidity is an important characteristic of wine that gives it a crisp or tangy taste. The climate in which the grapes were grown influences it, with cooler climates producing wines with higher acidity. Acidity can also be influenced by the winemaking process. An example is the malolactic fermentation, which can reduce the acidity in wine.
Tannins are compounds found in grape skins, seeds, and stems that give wine a dry and bitter taste. Red wines typically contain more tannins than white wines. This is due to the skins and seeds left in contact with the juice during fermentation.
Tannins break down during the aging process. Most wines become softer and more mellow over time as the tannins break down.
Body refers to the weight and texture of the wine in the mouth. It is influenced by the grape variety, fermentation, and aging. Full-bodied wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, have a heavier texture. Light-bodied wines, such as Pinot Noir, have a more delicate texture.
Others (e.g., alcohol, sweetness)
There are a number of other factors that can influence the taste of wine. For example, the alcohol content of the wine can affect its flavor and texture. Higher alcohol content often resulting in a fuller-bodied wine. The sweetness of the wine can also influence its taste. Sweet wines have a more fruity taste, while dry wines have a more acidic taste.
Examples of characteristics of popular wines include:
  • Chardonnay - A full-bodied white wine made from the Chardonnay grape.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon - A dry red wine with a bold flavor profile made from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape.
  • Pinot Grigio - A light-bodied white wine made from the Pinot Grigio grape that is known for its crisp, refreshing taste.
  • Merlot - A medium-bodied red wine made from the Merlot grape that is known for its smooth texture and easy-drinking style.
  • Pinot Noir - A light to medium-bodied red wine made from the Pinot Noir grape that is known for its delicate flavor and aromas of red fruit.
  • Sauvignon Blanc - A crisp white wine made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape that is known for its herbaceous and tropical fruit notes.
  • Syrah/Shiraz - A full-bodied red wine made from the Syrah/Shiraz grape that is known for its spicy and peppery flavors.
What causes impacts on wine characteristics?
Vineyard factors such as grape varietal, climate, and soil impact wine characteristics. Additionally, the winemaking process (e.g., fermentation and aging) changes the final product.
The characteristics of wine can be complex and varied. Making wine is a fascinating subject for those interested in the crossover of science and art. Understanding wine characteristics can help you to appreciate the nuances of different wines. More importantly, they can help you choose the perfect wine!