‘The tannin of this bottle of 1994 Margaux Grand Cru is just right and it has a full-body.’
‘Yes, it’s dry but still fruity enough.’
‘Unfortunately, the acidity is high for me.’
‘I don’t agree, I’ll say it’s off dry.’
‘STOP! I don’t understand a word you guys are saying!!!!”
It must be annoyingly confusing for a beginner in wine tasting to hear all these terms. What is ‘tannin’? What is ‘body’? What does ‘dry’ taste or feel like? I am going to start off with a simple orientation on the basics.
What is “Body”?
Body can be understood as the “fullness” or overall feel of a wine in your mouth. Try to think about the difference between drinking milk and drinking water. Wine body can be broken down into three categories: light body, medium body and full body.
Factors that contribute to a wine’s body include grape variety, vintage, terroir and winemaking process. In some instances, additives are included by fraudsters to adulterate the wine but of course, this rarely happens. Alcohol content also plays a role in building the body, usually it is higher the alcohol concentration, higher the viscosity (aka thickness or stickiness), but this is not always the case. Some drinkers might prefer wines with high alcohol content, but I think the best way to find a palatable wine is by region or grape variety.
How a wine taste to each person is different, it’s purely subjective and personal. In addition, alcohol content, tannin, acidity, temperature and food pairing will affect your judgment of a wine’s body. This explains why the same batch of wine can sometimes taste different from when you had it three months ago, and why you might have a different opinion from your friends on the same bottle of wine.
Next time, I will explain what tannin is, and how acidity (or sweetness) can affect a wine’s body.
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