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wine descriptors


“Women Are Like Fine Wine” – A witty way to detect and remember top wine descriptors

Ever had difficulty describing a wine? Don’t know exactly what tannin, body, acidity, dry and balance really mean? Describing the general style of a wine is not as intimidating as you might think. By associating these primary wine descriptors with some of the most beautiful traits of women, you might find detecting and remembering wine descriptors to be quite fun and easy.

  1. Sweetness

A wine could be described as dry, medium or sweet (dessert wines). Dessert wines aside, most red wines and the majority of whites are dry – the opposite of sweet, in wine parlance – because all the sugar has been converted to alcohol during fermentation. A Chablis from France is crisp and bone dry. Wines that are medium will usually be white or rosé. To make a medium wine, a winemaker could either remove the yeast from the juice before all the sugar has been consumed or add unfermented sweet grape juice to dry wine. A medium wine should have sweetness but not be cloying. Many popular wines from Germany are good examples of medium wine.

In a woman ♥ : An appropriate level of sweetness in a woman often adds to her charm. But think of someone who is too sweet too often. Could that make her appear too sticky or clingy with no personality? I think so.

  1. Body

This is the wine’s weightiness or general feel in the mouth. The grapes used or being aged in oak barrels are key contributors to the body of the wine. Light bodied wines are usually refreshing and easy to drink (e.g. Pinot Grigio from Italy, Baujolais from France). Medium bodied wines will feel more substantial, richer (e.g. Burgundy from France or Merlot from Chile). Full bodied wines seem more concentrated and weighty; they feel more powerful (e.g. oaked Chardonnay from California, Shiraz from Australia, Châteauneuf-du-Pape from France).

In a woman ♥ : Light bodied is NOT necessarily better than heavy bodied or vice versa. What do you prefer and what can you handle? A rubenesque beauty to wrap your arms around, an athletic companion to trek the trails with, or perhaps a delicate goddess to put on a pedestal? Yes, some women are all of the above, but let’s stay focused.

  1. Acidity

Acidity comes from the grape and is detected by the mouth watering sensation. Too much, a wine is tart, too little, a wine is flabby and flat. Acidity is very important, particularly in sweet wines – it cleanses the palate in each sip and makes the wine balanced, stopping it from being cloying.

In a woman ♥ : Acidity in wine is like humor and sharpness of tongue in a woman. Her humor wakes you up, and her tartness grabs your attention. However, what about someone who constantly pokes at you or is too bubbly all the time? Such nonstop liveliness could have a short shelve life and become annoying very quickly.

  1. Tannin

Tannin is the drying sensation felt on the teeth, gums, tongue and inner cheeks (not to be confused with dryness/sweetness). It comes from the skin, seeds and stems of grapes. Think of drinking dark black tea without any milk or sugar. The right amount of tannin is a good thing. It gives structure and complexity to wine and anchors it through maturity.

  1. Oak

Some winemakers choose to age their wine in oak barrels to impart additional flavors and texture into the wines. White wines can take on a buttery feel and gain vanilla flavors through aging in oak. Red wines can become smoother and gain spicy characters. A cheaper way to age wine with oak is by adding oak chips and staves in stainless steel vessels. This method is not used to produce high quality wines, but can be found in some popular mass-produced labels.

In a woman ♥ : This is a fun one and I will talk about tannin and oak in unison. Tannin is like dry wit in a woman. An appropriate amount makes her interesting and complex, but too much of it would probably rub you in the wrong way and turn you off. Oak is like the environment in which the woman is brought up – her education, hobbies, experiences, etc. As she matures, her life experiences and environs impart a lingering essence of upbringing. Her once unpolished harsh personality takes on the subtlety of her surroundings. She is sophisticated and can stand her ground; she’s tactful and appropriate.


The ULTIMATE GOAL of a winemaker is to strike a balance of sweetness, tannin, acidity, etc. when the bottle is ready to be uncorked. The characteristics are all present, but one does not overpower the other. When we start to experiment with tasting, there are elements we get excited about and those we cannot get enough of. “Boy, this is a very SWEET rosé…I love how FORWARD this wine is…this FULL BODIED wine can really stand up to my T-bone…” As we gain more experience, we will also come to appreciate a balance of traits and complexity of flavors. We find this balance offering a nostalgic lingering finish, and the complexity gracefully charming. We discover something new each time we taste, finding the experience ever more alluring and mysterious…wanting more.

Next time, when you want to describe a wine, simply think about how wonderful women are…Santé!

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