Swish:  What reaction does your mouth have to the wine

  • Acidity – while red wines will nearly always be less acidic than whites, they can still pack mouth-watering pucker power which can balance warm climate ripeness or intense tannins.  Acidity keeps reds tasting fresh, fruity and balanced even with high tannins.  Without them, wines taste dull, flat and can result in alcohol or tannins taking center stage with an unpleasant bitterness.
  • AlcoholSugar + Yeast = Alcohol and reds will typically have higher alcohol than whites due to higher sugar levels at harvest as the grapes thrive in more moderate to warm climates.  Reds with higher alcohol will have more body and warmth while those with lower alcohol tend to be more fruity and fresh.
  • Body – Derived from the amount of alcohol in wine, the lower the alcohol, the lighter the body.  The higher the alcohol, the heavier the body.  If you are a milk drinker, think of the difference between skim and whole milk.  Skim = light body.  Whole = heavy body.  Wines from warmer climates will almost always have a heavier body than those from cooler climates and in Module 4:  Red Wine, we will deep dive into this in more detail.  For reds, you might hear the terms rich, lush, bold, concentrated or structured for full body wines and for light body reds terms such as bright, subtle or elegant are more common.
  • Sweetness – Red wines, are not typically referred to as sweet.  Are they?  The real answer is yes and no.  While there are sweet red wines, especially those referred to as “fortified wines” such as ports and sherries, most reds are inherently dry.  Just like whites, however, the condition of the fruit when grapes are super ripe at harvest or wines are made in a juicy, fruit-forward style, they can leave an impression of being sweet, or at least sweeter than their counterparts with high tannins or significant oak and spice influences.  Baked cherry, jammy plum or ripe strawberry flavors can mimic sweetness even when the wine is bone dry. 

VIDEO on fortified wines – port, sherry