Sweetness: Tasted at the tip of the tongue and tastes sugary. The taste comes from the sugar in ripe grapes that is left after fermentation has finished. You can sometimes spot residual sugar from the ‘legs’ left on the sides of the glass. This is also an indication of alcohol or the level of fruit extract.
Acidity: Sensed on the sides of the tongue – can taste almost citric. It occurs naturally in grapes and is important to balance sweetness. White wines have more acidity than red wines.
Tannin: Tasted at the back of the tongue and tastes bitter like a strong cup of tea. Also has a drying effect on the gums. It comes from the pips and skins of the grapes and from oak ageing. It is mainly found in red wines.
Alcohol: Felt at the back of the throat, giving a warming sensation. The higher the level of sugar in the grapes before fermentation, the higher potential alcohol the wine will have, i.e. hotter countries tend to produce wines higher in alcohol. You can also see this from the ‘legs’ left on the sides of the glass.
Length: ‘Length’ is how long you can taste the wine once you have swallowed (or spat it out). It gives an indication of quality. The longer the length, the higher the quality.
Body: Weight and fullness of wine on the palate.
Balance: When all of the wine’s component parts (e.g. sweetness, acidity, tannins) blend together. This is a sign of quality. This can take time. A wine is mature when it has achieved optimal balance.