Cards of Wine

Basic Wine Characteristics

There are many ways to describe wine (rich, fruity, zesty, oaky, big), but there are 5 basic profiles defining the characteristics of wine:

Sweetness (Sugar)

The sugar in wines comes from the grape juice. Since most of the sugar is converted into alcohol during fermentation, wines are normally dry.


Dry Wines
2-8 grams sugar per liter

Medium Wines
Some residual sugar (8-12 g/l)

Sweet Wines
50-200 grams per liter

A wine becomes dry when the yeast converts all sugar into alcohol.

A medium-dry wine tastes a little sweet because the yeast has not converted all sugar into alcohol. Most medium-dry wines are white or rosé wines such as Riesling or White Zinfandel.

Sweet wines can be produced from grapes that are extreme high in sugar (late harvest) or by killing the yeast before it has consumed all the sugar in the grapes.

Examples of sweet wines are Sauternes, Vermouth, and Ice Wine.



High acidity

Medium acidity

Low acidity.

High acidity gives a wine a crisp and fresh taste.

Low-acid wines taste more smooth and round.

Acidity gives a wine a fresh taste. It makes your mouth water.

Acidic wines taste refreshing and crispy.

Low-acid wines taste smooth and round.

In medium (off-dry) and sweet wines, acidity balances the taste of sweetness avoiding unpleasant extra sweet taste (e.g. Riesling).

Acidity does not come from the skins but from the grape juice and ranges from 2.5 to about 4.5 in the PH spectrum.

The most common acids in wine are tartaric acid, malic acid, and citric acid.

Acidity is a key factor in long-term aging, but it is forbidden to add acid during winemaking (it is not forbidden in the New World).

Examples of high acidic wines are: Riesling, Pinot Noir, Chablis, most Italian wines.

Tasting terminology for acidity: crisp, zesty more for white wines, tart more for red wines. Tangy, sharp, tingling, aggressive, mouth-watering.


Tannins are small bitter particles found in trees and plants.

In wines they come from grape skins, stems, seeds, and oak barrels.

Tannins are present in red wines, almost never in white wines.


High tannins
Bold red wines

Medium tannins
Medium red wines

Low tannins
Light red wines

No tannins
White wines

What do Tannins Taste?

You cannot taste tannins but you can feel them:

Try to chew on: Grape Seeds, Tea Leaves, Walnuts or Banana Skin, and you can feel a dryness in your mouth and a bitterness on your tongue.

Tannins refers to using bark (Latin tannum = oak bark) for tanning animal skin into leather.


High alcohol. Low alcohol.

The majority of wines have between 8-15% alcohol.

The majority of wines have an ABV (alcohol by volume) between 8-15%.

Examples of wines with high alcohol: California and Australia Chardonnay, Amarone, Australian Shiraz, Zinfandel.

Examples of wines with low alcohol: Aperitif Wines, Pinot Grigio, Muscadet, Lambrusco.


Body is a description of how the wine feels in your mouth.


Light body
Light as water

Medium body
Light as skimmed milk

Full body
Full as whole milk

Body is about viscosity and mouth-filling.

Light Body

Light-bodied wines are light as water and easy to drink.

In general they have a lower alocohol percentage and a refreshing acidity.

Light-bodied wines are easy to drink without food, and are often served with aperitifs or light food.

Examples: Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Beaujolais.

Full Body

Full-bodied wines have more tannins and are more heavy (mouth-filling).

In general they have higher alcohol, more intensity and more tannins.

Full-bodied wines coat your mouth (viscosity) and feel heavy as drinking cream.

Full-body wines are often served with rich and hearthy dishes to create balance.

Examples: Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Rioja, Amarone, Oaked Chardonnay, Sauternes.

Body Levels in Wine...

Alcohol can be addictive. Drink in moderation.

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