Acidity & Sweetness
The taste of red wine depends on the degree of acidity, sugar, and tannin present in the wine. Acid is present in all wine because grapes contain natural acids: malic, citric, and tartaric. Higher acidity is common in wines grown in cooler regions, and present a tangy flavor. Lower acidity is common in wine grown in warmer regions, and present a ripe fruit flavor. Sugar helps balance acidity, and this happens during the winemaking process. Sweetness level refers to whether a wine is “dry” or “sweet” on the tongue. For a sweeter wine, a winemaker must kill off the yeast during fermentation. For a dry wine, the yeast does its job to eat away at the sugars.
Tannic is a word you may hear to describe the taste of wine, but in actuality, you feel them. If you can feel a thickness in the wine or would describe it as “chewy” you might be referring to the tannins in the wine. Tannins give the wine structure act as a natural preservative in wine. Wine that are more tannic are good for cellaring, and will smooth over time, and the tannins will sometimes bind together and become sediment over time. Here’s how Leslie Sbrocco described tannin levels in her book, “Wine for Women: A Guide to Buying, Pairing, and Sharing Wine” (HarperCollins).
How do you detect the level of tannins in a red wine? We don’t taste tannin but feel it. Light tannins are barely noticeable, medium tannins give a hint of drying feel in the mouth but are balance by sweet fruit, and strong tannins create an obvious mouth-puckering sensation on the inside of your cheeks.