passport wine and spirits logo

Home | Contact Us | Map | FAQ


Everything You Want to Know About Wine FAQ






Tannins are one of the most obvious, and sometimes, even pain-inducing ingredients in many red wines. Tannins usually find there way into a wine from the pipes (that is, the seeds), grape skins, and stems, or develop as a result of the wood in which the wine has been stored—or sometimes both. The sensation that tannin produces in the mouth is perhaps even more crude than any we have studied so far. As the wines mature, the tannins in the wine become less evident and the taste seems much softer. The fruit-based flavors start to emerge in subtle and complex forms.



A wine’s weight is a measure of how much alcohol and extract it has. A full-bodied wine has an alcohol content of at least thirteen percent. A light wine will probably be less than ten percent alcohol and is much flimsier. It’s difficult to describe how you assess weight but it’s actually quite easy to do. Simply, by looking at the wine you can get a clue and, with practice, when you smell it you often get quite a strong hint. It is when the wine is in the mouth when the wine sends its strongest “guess-the-weight” message. It really is the physical sensation of how heavy the liquid feels in the mouth.


  1. Cleanliness: A wine is described as clean if it has no obvious faults. Your nose is by the far the best judge of it. If after the first sniff you feel you still want to go on, then the wine is clean. Now that technology is available, fewer than one percent of all bottles available in the international marketplace exhibit a winemaking fault. The most common fault, corkiness, has nothing to do with inept winemaking; it is simply the chance result of a tainted cork. Common smells you might find in wine that are not so pleasant are:
  1. Balance: A wine is all balanced out if all its components blend into the whole with none standing out. A wine could be out of balance because it has too much acidity, because it is too sweet, because the tannin is too evident, or because the alcohol dominates the flavor. There is no single sensation that can help you make up your mind about whether or not the wine is balanced; you simply have to weigh up all the individual components. All good wines should be balanced by the time they are ready to drink, but a wine that seems to have a great future ahead of it may well be unbalanced in its youth simply because it is too tannic at that stage in its evolution.
  2. Length: Another sure sign of wine quality is length, or what tasters call the finish of the wine. If, having swallowed or spat out a wine, you’re still aware of its flavors lingering in your mouth and nose—in a good way, of course—then the wine must have been well made. A mouthful of great wine can seem to hang for minutes, if not hours, after the liquid has gone. This is why, in terms of total amount of pleasure given, expensive wines are not always poor value compared with lesser liquids whose impact is lost once they are swallowed. Each mouthful just lasts and lasts.

The white crystals that you may find at the bottom of your wine bottle are harmless solids that are precipitated by the maturation or storage of the wine. These harmless solids are usually little crystals of tartaric acid. In white wines these fragments can look suspiciously like sugar or glass particles. If these tartaric acid crystals are eaten they weill in fact taste very acidic.