Basic Wine Characteristics That Help You Find Favorites

Classifying wines according to their basic tastes is an effective wine and food matching technique. The basic tastes like sweet, bitter, sour and salty can be detected by the taste buds on human tongues and wines are classified by the dominant taste they display from sweet, sour and bitter.


This taste in a wine is normally confused with the fruity flavor. Actually the sweetness in a wine is determined by the amount of sugar present in it. All wines contain sugar in varying degrees from 5% to 20%. This amount denotes the percentage of sugar left in the wine after fermentation and is called the Residual Sugar. Dryness in a wine indicates high alcohol content. Dryer the wine the more is the alcohol content in it and it contains less sugar. 

The level of sugar is very low in dry wines and gets progressively higher with the decrease in alcohol content and is highest in dessert wines. Sugar has the ability to cover up the effects of tannin and acids in a wine. It dilutes the tanginess of a wine and lowers the bitter taste. This characteristic allows some manufacturers to hide the defects in their wines by making it sweeter. A sweet wine is generally heavier and richer and food matching these wines is generally the desserts. 

Very hot and spicy food, like Indian curries are also complemented by wines with a pronounced sweet taste. Port wine, Sherry and Madeira are some popular sweet wines. Ice wine which is exceptionally sweet is served by itself as a dessert.


The bitter taste is detected by the taste buds at the back of our tongues. This taste is created in a wine by the tannin present in it. Tannin increases the weight of a wine and so heavy wines have a more tangible bitter taste. Proteins react with tannin and soften the bitter taste. Red meat dishes, hard cheese, grilled and charred meat with a lot of fat are food matching highly tannic wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Barolo.


The amount of acidity in a wine is directly responsible for its sour taste and tanginess. Acidity is an important factor in wine and food matching as it acts in various ways to enhance the flavor of the food and wine. There are three types of acid present in wines; malic, lactic and tartaric. These acids are present more in the grapes that are on the verge of ripening. This gives the tangy sour taste to wines like Chardonnay. 

These wines can be matched with very rich food full of fats, oils and salt. The acidity dilutes these and makes the food more palatable. Acidity in a wine is one of the major factors considered in wine tasting as too little acidity could make a wine flat and tasteless while too much will make the wine excessively sour. The presence of the right amount of acid in a wine not only enhances its taste but also helps in preserving it.

This technique of wine and food matching allows one to select the wine that enhances and complements the taste of the cuisine.

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