The Structure of Wine

Comparing the effect on colour of oak aging wi...

Comparing the effect on colour of oak aging wine. Both are Penedès region Cabernet Sauvingnon 100% varietals; on the left, a two-year-old cosecha; on the right a six-year-old crianza. As the wine matures, its colour shifts from deep purple or crimson to a lighter brick red, taking on a more graduated appearance in the glass as it ages. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the last few weeks I’ve been writing a series on the structural elements of wine for the Rambling Epicure blog. I’ve assembled the seven posts here as a series of links, which constitutes a concise overview of the elements of wine we experience on the palate, but can’t necessarily put a name to as a ‘taste’ or ‘flavour’.

First up I cover the acidity and alcohol in wine. These are two sets of biochemicals that provide the primary structural elements we encounter in wine. Next up is residual sugar – that is, sugar remaining in the wine after the fermentation has converted much, or almost all, of it to alcohol. The vast majority of wines are ‘dry’ – that is, without perceptible levels of sugar – however sugar can play an important role in balancing excess acidity on the palate.

English: Oak wine barrels at the Robert Mondav...

Oak wine barrels at the Robert Mondavi vineyard, Oakville, Califorian USA (Napa Valley) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The body of a wine is something many of us talk about without actually knowing its origin or importance or how to describe it. Essentially it is a sensation of density of viscosity in the wine thanks primarily to alcohol and sugar. Tannins are an important structural element of red wines – although can be found in some white wines too. They are the furry, puckering sensation you experience on your inner cheeks. Whether a wine has been aged in oak vessels impacts both the flavour and aroma profile of the wine and how it is perceived in the mouth. The choice of American or French oak too plays a big role in the flavour of a wine.

Finally, we have the finish, or length of a wine. Exactly how does the wine end and what does that mean for the quality and coherence of a wine?


ConciseWineCover“The Concise Guide to Wine and Blind Tasting” by Neel Burton and James Flewellen is now available for pre-order on Amazon. The first survey of the world’s wine regions from a blind tasting perspective. Coming next March!


About James

Dr James Flewellen is a biophysicist, award-winning wine writer and educator based in London. Keep up to date with his writings and tastings at
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2 Responses to The Structure of Wine

  1. Bookmarked for future reference.

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