Jake Sipping

While you’re reading this, I hope you have a glass of wine in hand! When tasting wine, literally layers of sensations fill your mouth with each sip. Through tasting, we can break down those sensation experiences into a few simple, yet connected components; body, alcohol, acidity, and sweetness.  We refer to these sensations as ‘mouthfeel’.  Mouthfeel is more about the sensation, as opposed to a wine’s particular flavor, and with great wine, these mouthfeel characteristics are balanced so that all are present, yet none will dominate.

When pondering the body of wine, we are considering its viscosity; how thick it feels in the mouth.  Lighter bodied wines feel thin, and fuller bodied wines feel thick—similar to skim milk vs. whole milk.  The body of a wine is affected by multiple factors, but most notably the wine’s alcohol and tannins.  Tannins come from the skin of the grape which adds color and the dry (sometimes gritty) sensation.   

Wines are usually between 12-15% alcohols. Alcohol affects the density of the liquid, and higher alcohol wines are more full bodied.  Most of the time in a good wine you can’t ‘taste’ alcohol.  But alcohol can have a tactile feeling that’s often described as ‘hot’.  The hotness is a sensation of warming in your throat, chest, mouth, and sometimes you may even feel it in your nose!  

You can feel the acidity in wine as a slightly biting sensation across the tongue. Your mouth can even begin to build saliva on the sides of the tongue, which is a good indicator of a high level of acidity.  Acidity is necessary for the wine to pair well with food as it cuts through food-fats.  Red wines and some white wines will go through Malolactic Fermentation, which is the conversion of Malic acid into Lactic acid (the acid in milk) to make wines have a more smooth or silky texture.  However, with light bodied wines winemakers often will not initiate a secondary fermentation as they desire the wine to maintain a crispness and sharp acidity.

Sugar in a wine can add to the body, or viscosity, as well as sweetness. The ‘fruitiness’ in a wine may be misinterpreted as sweetness.  Fruitiness refers to the flavor of the wine as opposed to the amount of residual sugar in the wine.  So a wine can taste full of fruit, bananas, pineapple, litchi, and etc., yet still be completely dry, or absent of sugar.  A wine that’s actually sweet, meaning that it really does contain residual sugar; well the sweetness comes from the grape’s natural sugar that’s purposefully left over during the fermentation process.