I’m going to assume that not only are my new wine friends reading this blog occasionally, but that my non-wine friends are also peeking in from time to time. (Hi guys!) For their benefit, as well as my own as I play with the right words to describe tastings, I’m posting an occasional glossary entry.
Whenever I’m at a tasting or reading a wine book, the words tannic and acidic come up. Sometimes I wonder if the folks tossing the words around really understand what they’re saying, or if they’re just randomly using "wine words." In any case, thanks to the helpful glossary at Finewine.com, I can tell you what the words mean:
Acid/Acidic: A natural byproduct of
fermentation in wine. The acids provide the backbone of a good wine,
but too much can be unpleasant, while too little leaves a wine without
character. It gives a wine a sense of body and structure. Acidity is
never obvious in a balanced wine.
Tannins/Tannic: Referring to the presence of
tannic acid that comes from the skins, seeds and stems of the grapes.
Tannin is a necessary component of good wine, especially good red wine,
and is most evident in the first few years of maturity. Eventually, it
subsides during the maturation process. Tannin when young tastes or
feels like a cotton swab is being run down your tongue. It is that
drying sensation in your mouth not to be confused with the
mouth-puckering of acidity.
Still confused? Try this. Remember in college when you drank too much and the next day you had a dry, cottony feeling in your mouth? Well, if you’re drinking a wine and you get a bit of a reminder of those days with that dry cottony thing, that’s the tannins. As the wine matures, the tannins recede, much in the same way as hairlines and drinking binges.
Acidity is easy. You know that mouth-puckering feeling that you sometimes get with fresh orange juice? That’s the acid. You don’t want that in your wine. No puckering unless you’re out to kiss someone, and even then, best pucker on your own and not because of the taste of the wine.
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