Column: Misunderstood wine terms

There are a few wine terms that many people tend to confuse or misunderstand.

The terms I hear confused quite often are sweetness, dryness and fruitiness.  I hear a lot of people saying they don’t like sweet wines and asking for a dry wine.   Sweetness refers to the residual sugar in a wine.  In B.C., there is a sweetness code for each wine, with zero being the most dry and 10 being the most sweet.  Most wines have a zero sweetness code, meaning they are a dry-style of wine.  Almost all Shiraz, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines have a zero sweetness code.  Icewines would have a sweetness code of 10.  So when people say they don’t like sweet wines, most of the time, they are really saying they don’t like too much fruit flavours in their wines.  It is the fruitiness in wines that gives you the impression of sweetness.  Likewise, when people say they want a dry wine, that term applies to almost all red and white wines so that really doesn’t help someone choose a wine for you.  

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The other two terms that I hear people commonly confusing are acidity and tannins.  Acidity is what makes you salivate.  Everyone has their own taste preference but I personally love acidity in white wines. It makes my mouth water and gets my appetite going.  For me, if a wine is too acidic, it can taste sour and feel like you are sucking on a lemon.  On the other hand, some wines do not have enough acidity and I find these wines flat, dull and almost depressing.  Generally, white wines made from the Sauvignon Blanc grapes have good acidity and are quite easy to accept. 

Meanwhile, tannins are found in red wines.  Tannins make your mouth feel like it is drying up.  Some people compare the sensation to when you drink really strong tea and find your mouth feeling dry afterwards.  Tannins are also associated with the strength of a wine.  In general, heavy, bold red wines will have a high tannin content and red wines that are lighter will have less tannins. 

What does this have to do with actually enjoying wine?  Well, if you can’t describe to people what you like or don’t like, they won’t know what to serve you and choosing a wine you enjoy will almost be like randomly throwing darts at a dart board.  For instance, if you say you like dry wines and you really mean you don’t like fruity wines, someone may bring you a glass of Australian Shiraz or Sauvignon Blanc, which are actually dry wines that have lots of sweetness from the fruit. 

This week’s wine recommendation is Lindemans 2018 Bin 45 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Lindemans is a well-known Australian winery.  It gives you good fruit and tannins at an affordable price.  It is priced at $11.99, but I have seen it on sale for $10.99.  It is also part of the Living Wine Labels series.  So if you go to, download and open the app, and point your phone at the wine label, you get an “augmented reality” experience.  Pretty neat bonus to a nice bottle of wine.

Until next time, happy drinking!

Tony Kwan is the Richmond News' new columnist. Lawyer by day, food and wine lover by night, Kwan is an epicurean who writes about wine, food and enjoying all that life has to offer.

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