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Gentle Guide ➺ Wine Structure

What’s in a wine?

When it comes to breaking down the scents and flavours in a wine, what we know from food gets us so far.

But when we talk about a wine’s structure, this can get a little hazier. Liquids don’t have structure, do they? They might not, but your mouth does, ie. It has a roof. To talk of a wine’s structure is to describe how it interacts with the different receptors across your mouth.

the break down

When browsing the Sometimes Always range, you’ll note we categorise our wines across five structural qualities. Today we’re breaking them down to help you find new favourites with confidence.

body

Describing the body of a wine, be it lighter-bodied, medium-bodied, fuller-bodied or heavy, is a reference to the richness or intensity of a wine. 

You might think in terms of its concentration, or how it feels in the mouth. If a wine feels thicker and more viscous, perhaps syrupy or very strong in flavour, it’s likely to be a heavier bodied wine. 

Wines that are fuller or heavier often linger longer on your palate and fill ‘more’ of your mouth with flavour. While the terms are not synonymous, fuller-bodied wines may also be higher in alcohol, sweetness, acid and tannin as well. 

“Wines that are fuller or heavier often linger longer on your palate and fill ‘more’ of your mouth with flavour.”

TANNIN

Tannins are naturally occurring compounds in the skins, stems and seeds of grapes, and other plants besides. These molecules taste bitter and astringent, sometimes described as a drying, tightening or slightly gritty feeling on the tongue. 

That may sound unpleasant, but even highly tannic wines can be utterly delicious where those qualities are well balanced by others, like sweetness. Tannins are particularly abundant in younger wines, but usually mellow and settle as the wine continues to age.

ACIDITY

By definition, acids are chemical compounds that have low pH, but what on earth does that mean to your mouth?
Foods high in acid are often more sour– ie. yoghurt’s lactic acid, lemons’ citric acid. Acids make us salivate, so can contribute to the sense that a wine is particularly juicy. Underripe fruits are often sour, whereas riper fruits have more sweetness, so sometimes acid content will be linked with descriptive terms like ‘crunchy’, ‘electric’ or ‘bright’.

sweetness

Sweet wine has more sugar in it. We’re sorry to be the ones to tell you. 

While all grapes contain sugar in varying quantities (and some winemakers even add sugar to the ferment), the process of fermentation converts sugar to alcohol, thereby removing it. 

A sweet wine retains more sugar, while a dry style has very little residual sugar and tastes less sweet. If you hear the term ‘bone-dry’ bandied about, this typically (or technically, should) means the wine contains less than 0.5% sugar (though some do misuse the term to just mean ‘very dry’)

Off-dry means what it sounds like – the wine is not completely dry, but not overly sweet either – a small amount of residual sugar remains.

 

alcohol

Anyone who’s taken a shot of liquor knows the mouth-searing burn that alcohol can present at high-concentrations. 

Anyone who’s chased that liquor with a wedge of lemon or a sweetened beverage, knows also that the flavour and ‘burn’ of alcohol can be well-balanced by the presence of other flavours. 

Fortified wines for example, may contain a high concentration of alcohol that is highly palatable, as it’s balanced by high concentration sweetness.

High alcohol content is often associated with wines that are fuller-bodied. Dry styles may be higher in alcohol, due to more sugar having been fermented out of the wine, and thus converted to alcohol.

 

some of our new favourites to get you started