I am sure it is no surprise that the varietal (type of grape) a wine is composed of has the most significant impact on taste. Generally speaking, white wines are much more subtle and delicate in flavour compared to reds, which are bolder and richer in flavour.
There is also a range of flavour and intensity, as well as sweetness within each of the whites and reds. The depth of flavour and sweetness of the grapes is impacted by where the grape is grown and to a lesser extent, the characteristics of each individual growing season, whether it being warmer, cooler, wetter, and/or dryer.
The warmer the climate, the more intense the flavour of the grapes. This is because warmer climates have longer growing seasons, thus giving the grapes more time to develop and enhance their flavour.
There are micro climates within regions as well, which have a comparative effect on the flavour and richness of the wines produced. For example, within Canada, wines grown in British Columbia will generally have a bolder flavour than those grown in Ontario. This is because the Okanagan Valley where the bulk of B.C.s grapes are grown is a warmer location with a longer growing season than the wine regions of Ontario.
Wines will sometimes be categorized by dryness while other times they are assessed based on the intensity of their flavour, sometimes referred to as “body”. Retailers will typically display ratings based on dryness, that is, the amount of natural sugars present in the wine.
Dryness or sweetness does not always relate directly to whether the wine has a bold or mild flavour. The body or boldness of the flavour will be more dependent on the type of grape, the amount of tannin and acid in the wine, as well as the region the grape was grown in. For example, an Australian or Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon will most likely have a much more intense flavour than a similar wine from France or Canada.
The more tannin and alcohol content in a wine, the fuller the taste. The reverse is true for the level of acidity within the wine; the higher the levels of acidity, the less bold the taste of the wine.
Since darker coloured fruit usually has more intense flavour, the darker the colour of the wine, the more intense the flavour will be. The colour of a wine doesn’t help though when purchasing a wine from a merchant since the bottles are usually coloured preventing you from seeing the natural colour of the wine.
Light bodied wines are considered to be those with an alcohol level of 12.5% or less whereas medium bodied wines have alcohol content between 12.5% and 13.5%. Finally, any wine with an alcohol level of 13.5% or above is considered full bodied.
The grape content within a wine is not always easily identifiable by simply reading the label. In France for example, wines are identified only by the region in which they are produced, such as Bordeaux or Burgundy. An upcoming article will discuss how to identify the varietals contained in wines that are only identified on the bottle only by region or type.