How to identify the characteristics of wine

Monday, 29 May, 2023
Bonnievale Wines
Starting out on a new interest, everyone eventually encounters the challenge of how to identify the characteristics of wine.

Wine is a complex beverage with a range of flavours and aromas that can be difficult to identify, especially for those new to the world of wine. However, by learning how to identify the characteristics of wine, you can improve your enjoyment of it.

Four defining features of wine

Most tasting presentations and wine notes will refer to the same features. These will provide the doors when you seek how to identify the characteristics of wine. They are aroma, body, acidity, tannin and finish.

The aroma of wine is one of the most important characteristics as it can give you a sense of the wine’s complexity. To identify the aroma, swirl the wine in your glass to release the scent molecules, and inhale deeply. Bonnievale Limited Release Chardonnay 2022, for example, shows aromas that often reminds tasters of citrus with hints of vanilla.

The body of wine refers to a sense of weight and texture. Full-bodied wines can have a heavier texture, while light-bodied wines are sometimes perceived as being more delicate. The River Collection Shiraz 2021 is full-bodied, with intense flavours of dark fruit and spice. By comparison, Bonnievale The River Collection Chenin Blanc 2022 is lighter in style and shows flavours of sundried fruit.

The next two features that help in how to identify the characteristics of wine are acidity and tannin. They’re a little trickier in that they refer to the feel of a wine in one’s mouth.

Wine’s more elusive characters

When tasters talk about acidity in wine, they often allude to tartness or sharpness. It is closely related to body in that acidity is perceived on the palate. It is partly what contributes to descriptions of white wines, for example, being refreshing. The River Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2022 was singled out as one of South Africa’s best last year for, amongst others, its crispness and well-balanced acidity.

On the other hand, tannin can be associated with a drying or puckering sensation. It is a natural compound found in the skins, seeds, and stems of grapes, but adds to the experience of a wine too. Winemakers will often refer to tannins giving a wine structure and contributing to overall balance of the flavours, aromas and experience. Red wines typically have higher levels of tannins than white wines. By way of example, Bonnievale Limited Edition Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 is often described as having a fine tannic structure that lends it poise and depth.

Finally, and arguably most important, is what is referred to as the finish. This is the taste and sensation that lingers in your mouth after you swallow the wine. It is memory itself! A long finish is generally regarded as a sign of high-quality, but not exclusively so. Bonnievale The River Collection Merlot 2021 regularly has tasters enthusing over its smooth and everlasting finish.

From these four elements, all wines may be categorised. It’s essentially the foundation of wine experience that allows you to construct a picture in your mind. And it all begins with how to identify the characteristics of wine.