Although I personally do not drink wine very often, I really appreciate this alcoholic beverage. It has a unique flavor profile, i.e. a somewhat fruity flavor, some extraordinary health benefits, as well as huge social significance.
There are many types of wine but the basic division is into red and white wine. Regardless of type, wine is made through the fermentation process of grape juices. It doesn’t possess high alcohol content, i.e. on average 11 percent to 13 percent ABV.
Alongside that, wine can provide you with some great health benefits due to the fact that it is very high in antioxidants. Because of these fantastic characteristics, many people opt for a glass of wine from time to time, some of them for a bottle of wine but I wouldn’t recommend that really.
But, you have to know that different types of wines possess slightly different flavors. You have to be aware of that before drinking wine. You also have to know that there is a whole procedure for tasting wine.
I am sure that most wine lovers and wine enthusiasts know that, but for those who are not so into wines, I wrote an interesting article about what does wine taste like and how to taste and experience it.
What Does Wine Taste Like?
So, the first question is “What does wine taste like?”. It is not that easy to answer this question in one sentence, but I will try to provide you with some kind of introduction by answering the two most frequently asked questions.
Does Wine Taste Good?
The answer to this question really depends on your preferences and on the type of wine of course. But, generally speaking, the flavor profile of good wine is perfect. You can recognize a good wine if it has balanced bitter, sweet, sour, and salty elements.
I, and most wine experts too, believe that the key is in the sweetness and sourness of the wine. If the wine has a very high acidity, it’s not that good. Also, if the various wine notes are too distinct, the wine doesn’t possess a lot of quality. Usually, young wines have this kind of problem.
Finally, if the wine tastes like some kind of vegetable that is not celery or mushroom, it is a sign of bad wine. As you can see, there are good and bad wines. If the wine passes this test, it has a good flavor profile that most people tend to enjoy.
Does Wine Taste Like Grape Juice?
I don’t think so. Many people who are not so much into wine tend to ask this question. Although there are slight similarities in flavor profiles of wine and grape juice, generally speaking, they are not nearly the same.
Wine that tastes like juice made from fruit that starts with g won’t be so desirable for many people really.
Grape juice has a sweet sugary taste that is characteristic of many types of fruit. On the other hand, wine has a sharper taste, i.e. a more robust taste. This is of course due to the fermentation process that transfers sugar into alcohol.
But, fortunately, some types of wines have more of that fruit flavor characteristic for grape juice. Those types of wines include Merlot, Sangiovese, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, and Grenache.
Those are the wines that taste like juice and not just any kind of juice. Each and every one is a wine that tastes like grape juice to some extent.
How Do You Taste Wine?
I am sure that many of you have seen how in wineries, some people tend to taste wine a little longer to see what wine is the best wine. There are ways to tell how does wine taste like. Elements that will help you go through that process include sweetness, acidity, and tannins.
The first thing that you will notice after your first sip of wine is most probably its sweetness or dryness. When wine experts test the flavor profile of wines, they distinguish between two basic types of wines.
The first type is a sweet wine and the second type is a dry wine. They experience the sweetness through a tactile sensation on their tongue.
If they are not sure, they pinch their nose when tasting, and that way they taste the sweetness without the fruity aroma that can spoil the test.
The second element is acidity. Highly acidic wines are classified as “crisp”, i.e. when you taste that distinct tartness. It is most likely that your white wine will be more acidic.
On the other hand, less acidic wines are known as “soft” wines and they are considered to be easy for drinking.
Every type of wine, of course, possesses some level of acidity because wine grapes, both white grapes and red grapes, contain tartaric acid. When you first taste the wine, you can feel that acidity in the middle of your tongue.
If your mouth produces a lot of saliva, that is a clear sign of highly acidic wine.
And the last important element is tannin. Tannins are a group of bitter and astringent compounds that can be found in oak, tea, cranberry, walnuts, cacao, and grapes. Tannins give a wine that characteristic bitterness and astringency.
It is something characteristic of red wines. Because of it, red wine feels dry in your mouth at first. The amount of tannins as well as the amount of bitterness varies from wine to wine.
Wine tasters and sommeliers feel tannins inside their cheeks, on the gums, and in the mouth rear. The amount of tannins determines if your red wine is soft, astringent, or firm.
I also have to emphasize that tannins can provide you with certain health benefits, which is another reason to fill your glass with good wine.
What Does Red Wine Taste Like?
Two basic types of wine are red wine and white wine. People appreciate red wine more and buy it at the liquor store. It tends to be healthier and many people fancy that characteristic red wine flavor, i.e. a sweet, dark flavor. Some varietals, however, can have a bitter taste as well as drier.
Light Bodied Red Wines
I will start with the light-bodied red wines that are lower in tannins and because of that somewhat more similar to white wine varieties. So, if you are a fan of white wine but want to make a change, opt for these types of wine.
• Pinot Noir: Pinot Noir has high acidity. It distinguishes itself with earthy, herbal notes. It is considered to be easy for drinking, so you can always opt for one or two glasses.
• Beaujolais: It is a type of light-bodied red wine that originates from France and distinguishes itself with high acidity and characteristic red berry flavors. It goes perfectly with cranberry sauce, turkey, squash, etc.
Medium-Bodied Red Wines
Medium-bodied red wines are something very similar to light-bodied red wines, just with a little less tannins. The consequence of that is a little more complex structure and intense flavor.
• Red Zinfandel: Red Zinfandel, also known as Red Zin, is a type of medium-bodied red wine that has a specific fruity flavor and spicy finish. You can combine it with both sweet and savory dishes.
• Merlot: Merlot is one very popular type of wine and that is not a coincidence. It is very easy to drink because it has a little more tannins but it isn’t dry. You can combine Merlot with almost any type of food. It goes well with red meat particularly.
Full Bodied-Red Wines
If you like bold flavors and high alcohol content, full-bodied red wines are definitely for you. They have the highest amount of tannins that create a feeling of weight and dryness on the palette. These types of wine are definitely not for those faint-headed.
• Malbec: I will start with Malbec. It is a type of wine that originates from Argentina and it is definitely one of the most popular wines out there. It possesses dark fruit flavors of black cherry, plum, and blackberry. And there is also that characteristic sweet tobacco finish.
• Cabernet Sauvignon: Another very popular red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, is known for its high tannins and high acidity with notes of green pepper, black cherry, and vanilla. It is perfect for one big steak dinner.
• Syrah/Shiraz: Syrah from France or Shiraz from Australia is known for its very intense flavor. It is also very high in tannins. Both of these similar types of wines possess a very high amount of antioxidants and that means that they are extremely healthy.
Syrah has a little more elegant flavor profile compared to the powerful, fruit-driven flavor profile of Shiraz.
Sweet Red Wines
Sweet red wines are considered to be the healthiest types of wine that exist. Because of that, they are becoming increasingly popular in recent times. When it comes to winemaking, there aren’t a lot of sweet red wines that are not a blend.
• Lambrusco: Lambrusco wines are known for their sweet flavors, as well as for some incredibly sweet aromas of cherries, violets, watermelon, mandarin orange, and orange blossom. Lambrusco wines are best paired with some Thai and Indian dishes.
• Port: Port is a fortified wine, i.e. it is made from wine and some other type of alcoholic beverage, most commonly Brandy. This type of wine is somewhat sweet with a little higher amount of tannins that balance the sweetness.
Take note that it is best to consume every type of red wine at room temperature.
What Does White Wine Taste Like?
The taste of red wine is considered to be sweeter. On the other hand, white wines tend to be drier. But really, they can range from sweet to dry based on varietals.
The difference between these two is in the manufacturing because making red wine only requires fruit pulp contrary to white wine grape skin. If you pull out the skin earlier, you will make white wine. And if you take it out somewhere in the middle of the process, you will get rosé.
Light And Dry White Wines
Light and dry white wines are so light and refreshing and low in sugar. They go well with light dishes, as well as with every type of white meat. Also, they are often the base for vermouth and contribute to its complex flavor profile greatly.
Because of that, this wine can also be a great substitute for vermouth, especially dry variety.
• Pinot Grigio: If you want one very refreshing white wine with zesty acidity and fruit flavors, Pinot Grigio is definitely your best bet. It is very versatile. You can drink it on your own while relaxing, use it at your dinner party, or pair it with almost any type of dish that you can think of. Pinot Grigio is amazing.
Bold And Dry White Wines
Bold and dry white wines are somewhat harder for drinking, but they are still very refreshing and possess an incredible flavor profile.
• Chardonnay: The absolute number one in the world of white wines is a French wine called Chardonnay. Although white wines are not the first choice among wine connoisseurs, this type of wine gets nothing but respect.
That is mainly because it has a very balanced flavor profile. It is a dry, medium-bodied wine with moderate acidity and alcohol. That makes it suitable for a wide range of people to consume.
Sweet White Wines
And, finally, there are sweet white wines. The most popular sweet white wine is definitely Moscato but there are some other important types including Malvasia Bianca, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer.
• Moscato: Moscato is known for its sweet citrus aroma and floral undertones. It possesses the aroma of ripe pear, sweet Meyer lemon, honeysuckle, and mandarin orange. Its popular floral aroma comes from an aromatic compound known as linalool.
White wine, in general, has an acidic taste that is very similar to all types of vinegar including apple cider. That is why it can be a great substitute for apple cider in soups, stir-fries, and even stews.
Also, white wine is a base for white wine vinegar and makes a key difference between white vinegar and white wine vinegar.
Portuguese Vinho Verde
Speaking about white wines, I couldn’t help but mention Portugal Vinho Verde. I am sure that you are asking yourself, “What is Vinho Verde?”, or “What kind of wine is that?”.
Don’t worry, I also didn’t know anything about this amazing wine last summer when I and a few of my friends decided to visit Portugal, and no less than the capital itself, Lisbon.
After enjoying excellent fish food in a Lisbon restaurant, we decided to go on a cruise where we were offered a drink of our choice. And of course, we decided to try the best they had.
Without much thought, they offered us a wine called Vinho Verde. Although it was obvious that it was a white wine, the literal translation is ‘green wine’.
The waiter explained to us that it actually means “young wine” and that the reason for this is the fact that this wine is being consumed right after bottling. We actually had the honor of trying a wine that came from a protected region that can only produce that variety.
Also known as Lisbon wine, Vinho Verde looked just amazing. It had a perfect white color and it was so light and fresh. The combination of fruity and floral aromas was incredible and its fruity taste with natural acidity was so good that there are no words to describe it.
I found out that the most common grapes used for making Vinho Verde include Alvarinho, Loureiro, Arinto, Avesso, Batoca, Azal, and Trajadura. Most Vinho Verde wines are a blend of grapes, but if you are searching for a single variety of wines, look out for Loureiro and Alvarinho.
I found out later that there are also red and rose varieties of Vinho Verde, but they are not really that popular, both among Portuguese and abroad because of their sour taste.
Your Wine Flavor Chart
As you can see, it is not possible to answer the question “What does wine taste like?” in one sentence. Generally speaking, the key is in the balance between sweetness and sourness. It is not good for the wine to be too sweet or too sour.
However, that really depends on the type of wine. Red wines are more sweet and white types of wines are higher in acidity. There are also differences within the subtypes of red wines and white wines.
Light-bodied and medium-bodied red wines are lighter types and full-bodied and sweet red wines are somewhat more powerful, i.e. they have a more intense flavor and are higher in alcohol.Light and dry white wines also belong to the group of lighter white wines and bold and dry white wines, as well as sweet white wines tend to be more intense in flavor and somewhat more powerful.