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Wine Characteristics

Understanding the Basic Characteristics of Wine


Describing wine characteristics can be as subjective as wine tasting itself. However, there are certain quantifiable characteristics such as bitter, sweet, salty or acidic that can be perceived when you first taste a wine.  The perception of flavors is linked to our sense of smell, while taste comes from the sensory glands of the taste buds.


In wine characteristics, there are four basic tastes – bitter, sweet, acidic and salty:

Bitter – Bitterness is most associated with a young wine that has not reach maturity or can be derived from a wine’s tannins. Tannins add dryness, bitterness and astringency to wine (most commonly in red wines). As a characteristic of wine, tannins can add complexity to a wine and enhances the perception of body or weight in the wine.

Sweetness – The sweetness in wine characteristics is determined by the amount of residual sugar left in the wine after the fermentation process. Wines can be bone dry with the sugars fully fermented into alcohol, off-dry with a hint of sweetness, semi-dry with a medium sweet taste and dessert sweetness found in wines such as Sauterne.

Acidic – Acidic wines are perceived by a mouth-watering response by the salivary glands. Acidity in wine has to do with how ripe the grapes are in the wine making process. The less ripe a grape is, the more acidic it becomes. In wine making there are three main acids that have their own associate flavors: malic (tastes like green apples), lactic (tasting milky) and tartaric (tasting bitter).

Salty – Some wines seem to have a salty taste. It is generally thought that salty wines have been produced from grapes that are grown near an ocean. Some have described the saltiness taste in wine as having intense minerality or even a briny taste.

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