Wine Characteristics that Help Find Favourites

mind mapping syrah

In the article “Love from the first sip” we spoke of such wine features as acidity, sweetness, bitterness, fruit, texture (tannins). But why is it so important to pay attention to those attributes? It’s simple, learning to identify wine characteristics helps to identify what one like about a wine. That makes wine bottle choice easy and painless in future.

Below those five founding characteristics of wine are taken in depth:


To taste sweet, one should focus the attention on a tip of a tongue. That’s where the taste buds, which perceive “sweetness” the best are located. Often the very first impression of wine is formed by its sweetness.

How to detect it in wine:

  • Tingling sensation on the tip of the tongue.
  • Wine has a higher viscosity. Viscosity is its thickness, coating sensation on the palate; to spot the viscosity and therefore higher level of sugar is possible by referring to wine tears, also called “legs”. They slide on side of glass slowly.
  • A bone-dry wine (for reds) can often be confused with a wine with high Tannin
  • Oily feeling in the middle of a tongue


This characteristic is very common for foods. To recollect such sensation one should just nibble on a piece of lemon. In another words it’s tart. Wines with higher level of acidity often perceived as lighter wines. Acidity makes them a bit “spritzy” or “fresher”. If someone gravitates naturally towards more round wines, he/she might enjoy little lesser levels of acidity.

How to detect it in wine:

  • The sensation focuses on the front and sides of the tongue
  • Mouth starts salivating as if one bites onto a Granny Smith apple
  • Once rubbing tongue on the roof of mouth it feels little coarse


It is important to keep in mind that tannin is primarily texture description. It is often confused with the level of Sweetness - Dryness simply because Tannin dries the palate. But Sweetness - Dryness refers to taste and amount of sugars/residual sugars in wine, while tannin is always a texture. Tannin adds complexity, balance and structure to wine, as well as it makes it last longer.

How to detect it in wine:

  • Tastes bitter on the front inside of the mouth and along the side of the tongue
  • Tannin makes palate dry out.


One can characterize wines by their main fruit flavors. In fact that what usually amateur wine aficionados do. Interestingly, wines that have, lets say, peach notes lead into a very different set of grape varietals than wines that taste like citrus fruits. Additionally, the level of fruitiness that one tastes in a wine hints on very different growing & production regions. Therefore tasting for fruit flavors in a wine can help to become more precise in defining preferences.

How to detect it in wine:

  • Red Wine: red fruits such as raspberry or dark fruits like blackberry and blueberry
  • White Wine: Citrus fruits, Stone fruits

We took three widely spread red grape varietals: Pinot Noir, Merlot & Syrah  and translated them into a scheme. This scheme is made to identify particular features which can appeal to the drinkers.

To use the infographics while tasting one should start from inner circle and move outwards: from broad categories to more particular ones - from main family to individual flavors. Once enough clues are revealed the drinker can find out the variety which appeals to him/her the most.


Alcohol Level ABV (or Alcohol by Volume) adds body. The wine will have a higher viscosity, color intensity and richness. A high alcohol wine typically tastes fuller bodied than a light-alcohol wine.

How to detect it in wine:

  • One can refer to the alcohol level - it’s a heat-wave feeling closer to the throat. The higher the alcohol (hotter sensation in the throat) the more alcohol percentage and therefore broader wine’s body.
  • Wines with bigger body usually have longer finish.

In conclusion all these characteristics and techniques allow one to remember the structure of the wine and its "spirit". Therefore to know better while choosing next time what is his/her preferences.