A key to knowing what they’re talking about

Acidity refers to the tartness of a wine. High-acidity wines might be described as crisp or racy, while those with low acidity are called soft, and wines with too little acidity are often described as flat.

Alcohol in table wines usually ranges between 13 and 15 percent. The amount of alcohol determines a wine’s richness, body, and intensity of flavor. Wines with low alcohol feel light-bodied, while wines with too much alcohol often taste overripe and imbalanced.

Balance describes the harmony (or lack thereof) among all the elements in a wine. A balanced wine is a progression of fruit, acids, alcohol, and tannins, with nothing too prominent.

Body is all about how the wine feels in your mouth. “Light body” connotes a thin feeling in your mouth. “Medium body” means that a wine is full-flavored, without being too heavy. “Heavy body” means the wine has a robust, round and very rich feel.

Complexity refers to the aromas and flavors in a wine and how they interact with each other. The more layers of flavor and aroma, the more complex the wine and the higher its quality.

Corkiness is the most common flaw in wine, is caused by a tainted cork. Corked wines smell and taste of wet, musty, or mildewed cardboard.

Finish describes a wine’s aftertaste, be it fruit, acidity, oak, or tannins. Generally, the longer the flavor lasts after you swallow, the better quality the wine. However, there are also not-so-great wines with long finishes.

Legs (or tears) are the trickles of wine that run down the inside of a glass after you swirl it. The legs are clues to how much alcohol or residual sugar the wine contains; thicker, slower legs indicate a wine with more alcohol or residual sugar.

Sweetness or dryness levels refer to the presence or lack of sugar in wine. Wines range from bone dry, with no residual sugar, all the way to dessert-sweet in style. Off-dry wines have just a hint of sweetness. Most table wines are dry to off-dry.

Tannins come from the skins, seeds and stems of the grapes and also from the barrels. Usually found in red wine, tannins taste bitter and make your palate feel fuzzy, puckery, or even dry if there’s a good deal of tannin. Wines high in tannins are often described as firm, and those without a lot of tannins are called soft.

—O&A

Out & About Staff
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