Words to Describe Texture
While not in anyway an exhaustive list some of the words that I tend to frequently use when describing a wine's texture are creamy, smooth, opulent, rich, lean, velvety, supple, viscous, fat, oily, waxy, juicy, silky, voluptuous and succulent. These are all physical sensations in the mouth that add dimension to a wine's flavor descriptors.
Contributors to Wine Texture: Tannin, Alcohol, and Sugars
Because compounds in wine interact with each other all the time to continually form new compounds, it is somewhat difficult to be precisely definitive regarding the exact source of a particular's wine's textural sensation. As indicated above, we do know that tannin in red wine is a major contributor to texture. Compare for example the silky tannins of a red Burgundy wine to the grippy, almost astringent tannins of a young Barolo wine.
Alcohol also has an important influence on texture, by way of the glycerol it generates. In general, higher alcohol wines have more glycerol than lower alcohol wines. Alcohol adds viscosity to a wine. Compare a wine that has 14% alcohol to one with about 12.5%. You can feel the physical difference, not just the heat.
A third important contributing factor is polysaccharides. While too complex to delve into in detail here, put simply polysaccharides are different types of sugar molecules that exist in wine. Depending on the specific type they can add various levels of richness to a wine's texture. For example, polysaccharides include the compounds responsible for noble rot (i.e. "good botrytis") needed for such lauded wines as Sauternes or Tokaji Aszú. Other texture influencing polysaccharides include the compounds responsible for the mid-palate creaminess in white Burgundy and other higher end Chardonnay wines, as well as those that contribute to the rich mouthfeel of Champagne and other traditional method sparkling wines.
Is Wine Texture Important?
In my book, yes texture is important. Texture adds another dimension to a wine's aroma and flavor characteristics. Texture is part of the wine's overall personality. And like other wine attributes, balance and how it interplays is key.
Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant.
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