There is a reason wine has been a part of human history for thousands of years: because it's delicious. As time has gone on, wine quality continues to improve, and wine producers discover new techniques for grape growing and winemaking practically every day. With great wines being produced from nearly every country out there, from Australia to Italy to new world wines, it can sometimes be challenging to discover what tastes you like and find the perfect wine that you genuinely love and enjoy.
Choosing a Wine Can Get Confusing
Today, people have wildly different taste preferences when it comes to the bottle of wine that they choose. Some swear they only drink red wines, others only drink white wine, and then there is us...who, well, drink everything.
We like to think about wine like people's preferences when it comes to tv shows. Everyone loves tv, but some like watching "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" on repeat, and others can't get enough murder mystery shows. Finding what wines suit your preferences takes some knowledge and exploration into the different types of wines.
Understanding What Kind of Wine You Like
To understand and discover the kinds of wine you enjoy, we suggest wine tasting. Wine tasting is the process of examining different wine through your different senses: sight, smell, taste, and touch. The ultimate goal is to truly understand and discover the wine's appearance, aroma, flavor profiles, and texture.
While tasting, you should be evaluating your wine based on its color, aroma, and taste. For this blog, we will focus on the latter. Sugar, alcohol content, tannin, grape variety, and acidity contribute to the wine's body from light to full. These are the elements that make up each wine's structure, whether it's a Bordeaux or a fine champagne.
Dry Vs. Sweet
A dry wine is one that has no residual sugar content. We know what you're thinking; how is that possible? Wines are made from grapes, which have sugar. So, here's what happens. To create wine, grape juice goes through a process of fermentation. Essentially, during fermentation, the yeast eats all of the juice's sugars. If the winemaker stops the fermentation process early, the wine will have a little bit of residual sugar left, making it a sweeter wine. If the winemaker lets the yeast go ham and finish the process, there is little to no residual sugar left, making it a dry wine.
Dry white wines include Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Chardonnay, with wines like Riesling moving towards the spectrum's semi-sweet end. Similarly, red wines that are considered dry are Merlot, Rioja, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Malbec, and Burgundy. Cabernet and Merlot are the most popular and well-known produced red wine varietals. Dry red wines produced in America include cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, pinot noir, and zinfandel.
Sweet wines include Sparkling Dessert Wine, Lightly-sweet Dessert Wine, Richly-sweet dessert wine, Fortified wine, and Sweet red wine.
Tannins are a compound that is found in nature. They're bitter and astringent and present in wood, bark, leaves, and fruit of plants such as grapes. Therefore, tannins are found in wine!
Tannins are the fun guys responsible for producing that astringent sensation you get after you bite into an unripe fruit, such as a pear or plum. For as long as humans can recall, we have been using tannins for various things, such as tanning animal hides to make leather. Tannins come from four primary sources: grape skins, seeds, stems, and wood barrels used during aging.
In some foods, tannins are the prize. When tannins' bitterness and astringency are executed well, they can be delicious and delightful! These include dark chocolate, coffee, and, well, of course, wine! In wine, tannins provide texture and a mouthfeel to wine and a feeling of weight and structure.
But, you might be asking, why do people only talk about tannins when it comes to red wine? Here's why: white wines are made from the grape's juice, while red wine is made from the entire grape. Therefore, while red wines ferment, they do so with the grape's juice, skins, stems, etc. During the process, both the color and tannins make their way into the wine.
All wines are acidic, and many different types of acids are found in wine. The most prevalent acids are tartaric, malic, and citric acid.
Essentially, a wine's acidity is the tartness. It's what makes a wine refreshing and gives it a little pucker. When someone refers to wine as bright, fresh, or crisp, what they mean is that the wine has excellent acidity. Although white wines are most commonly associated with acidity, red wines can also be crisp, bright, and fresh.
When acidity works the best, wine is well balanced. That means that the wine's acidity pairs nicely with the other components of the wine. Wines that are too acidic overpower the other senses.
Fruitiness is the wine's flavor and aroma that makes it, well, reminiscent of fruit. We assume wine is sweet because fruit is sweet. But wine can be packed with fruit flavors and be an extremely dry wine. Fruity wines contain the essence and flavors of fruit, while sweet wines have a higher residual sugar level. Note, there is a difference between fruitiness and sweetness. Often, people believe because the wine is fruity, it is therefore sweet and is not dry. But wine can be both fruity and dry.
Tips For Tasting Wine
Wine tasting can happen just about everywhere: from a winery's tasting room, a wine bar, a tasting event, or your very own home. When tasting, wine experts suggest ensuring you have a big enough wine glass that you can swirl around your taste of wine. They also suggest taking short breaths through your nose and out of your mouth so that you can capture the most aroma. The first sip of good wine provides you the most information as it is the only one where your taste buds aren't fatigued. And for real pros: spit instead of swallow if you're determined to keep your senses sharp!
Go With What Tastes Good To You
Knowing which of these elements you like and dislike will let you begin to understand what kinds of wines you enjoy drinking, and what the best wine is for you. At this point, you're basically a sommelier.