Were you overwhelmed the first time you visited the winery? Worry no more. Once you know what the labels mean, it will be easier to select a bottle next time.
Red wines are distinguished by the sweetness or dryness, strong tannins or fruity, low tannins, wine body and climate.
Sweetness and Dryness
The sweetness of a red wine is determined by its alcohol content, tannins, acidity and the amount of sugar. Dry wines make you feel as if the inside of your mouth is sticking to your teeth, while sweet wines look like they stuck to the sides of your glass.
Examples of very dry or bone dry wines are Montepulciano and Bordeaux. Very sweet wines are Tawny Port and Win Santo Rosso.
Tannins or tannic acid are polyphenolic compounds found inside grape skins, stems and seeds that bind to and precipitate proteins. Red wines in general have higher tannins than white wines. They are also found in tea and cocoa.
Tannins are responsible for two characteristics you often taste in red wine. These are astringency and bitterness, which both form the term “mouthfeel.” Red wine will seem dry and rough in the mouth because the tannins usually bind the proteins in the saliva. A Pinot Noir has a low, fruity tannin while a Zinfandel has strong tannins. A Merlot on the other hand is somewhere in between.
The body refers to the feel of the red wine in your mouth. Full-bodied wines are stronger than light-bodies wines which are delicate. Medium-bodied red wines are somewhere in between. The fullness or weight is affected by the red wine’s alcohol, acidity and tannins. The most important however, and the information you need to find on the bottle label, is the alcohol percentage. Alcohol is responsible for the wine’s viscosity so you’ll be able to distinguish how it feels in the mouth.
Red wine has five classifications, namely; light, light to medium, medium, medium to full and full. An example of light wine is Beaujolais Nouveau, while Cabernet Sauvignon is a type of full wine. A light-bodied wine has less than 12..5% alcohol while a full-bodied wine has more than 13.5% alcohol.
When you read the label of the red wine bottle, you will see where the grapes are grown too. The climate can either be warm climate or cool climate. The grapes from warm climate regions such as California, Southern France and Italy, Spain, Portugal, Australia, Argentina and South Africa are typically used for full-bodied and riper wines.
Cool climate regions such as Germany, Northern France and Italy, Chile, Austria, New York, Oregon and Washington, USA are used to make light-bodied wines.
Overwhelmed with all these information? Don’t worry, most wine bottles already provide all the information you need. The best method to remember what all these words mean is to associate them with the taste of the red wine. Most experts recommend you begin with a Spanish Garnacha, American Zinfandel or an Australian Shiraz.