Wine Tasting Series (Part 2) – acidity, sugar, alcohol

CHALLENGE AT BOTTOM: First 3 Winners of the challenge at the bottom will get cover photo props for the next 3 articles, shout-out to their blog, we’ll figure it out together.

Ahhhh yessss!
You wake up from your slumber, sitting up and soaking in the morning sunlight, and fresh air of wine country. You slept in today because…well, you’re on vacation. You stand up, shower, and sit down to plan your activities

….Fast forward a few hours….
You walk in to the first winery of your tasting adventure. Beautiful architecture, the sound of stemware ringing, and the gentle musk of red wine summons you to the bar.

GET YOURSELF TOGETHER MATE!!..Its time to sink in and get a solid footing, and refocus your sensory evaluation, not to the beautiful environment around you, but to the task at hand…giving an honest evaluation of the wines you taste. You don’t want to go buying wines that you won’t like when you get home, because you were so distracted.


Honestly, I still find it quite hard. What I have developed, is a system that takes some of the flavors out of the equation. Flavors can be over accentuated by your mental state. Instead, focus on structure and balance.
A word I made up a few years ago for the system I use. The basic definition: the balance of three major components in a wine’s taste and longevity. The closer the triangle is to equilateral, the better. This is true for overall quality, lifespan of the wine, how it will develop over time and of course, how many of those flavors will present themselves once you are not under the influence of the gorgeous surroundings of a beautiful winery.

CONTROVERSIAL : I relate the structure of this triangle to the way that the federal government system is set up. If one side has too much power, it will either collapse, or become volatile.

Just to cover myself, You may want to arrange these based on your political views. You might like one branch more for its corresponding wine structure branch…but this is not a political discussion. Keep that to yourself please.

BRANCH 1 – ACIDITY – “The Legislature”
I recommend reading more on acidity in my last post if you have not read it yet.
Acidity is the backbone of the wine as well as the component that gives a drinker a pleasureful mouth watering affect if constructed correctly in a wine. It is crisp and elevates the flavors supplied by the grapes if it is in balance with the other branches of the triangle.

Overreach of powerBitterness, sourness, over powering fruit that cannot be truly enjoyed.
UnderwhelmingFlabby wine that falls apart quickly in the glass, and leaves much of the taste in the wine, completely flat and unrecognizable.

BRANCH 2 – SUGAR – “The Judicial”
We all know the taste of sugar. Red wines traditionally are dry, however since the 80s many producers finish the fermentation process a bit early, a result of high sugars at harvest, and results in a bit of sugar in the finished product. In whites, it is more common to find sugar. Sugars give a bit more body to a wine, and can hide a bit of sourness provided by acidity. It can also mask a bit of the alcohol in the wine. It is a buffer that can be used if necessary.

Overreach of powerSweetness, fake tastes like High-C, Splenda, raisin, or other candies, flabby wine that will fall apart quickly if not balanced by acidity or alcohol.
Underwhelming  – Some of the bitterness and harshness of acidity or alcohol will start to come through if not kept in check…If the legislature and executive stick within the guidelines, no action should be necessary, but it could be a crucial factor if that does happen.

BRANCH 3 – ALCOHOL– “The Executive”
Alcohol is a preservative on its own, and one of the main reasons we actually drink wine. It is not a taste that we want to taste, but we also want to know that its there. It is a piece of the wine that effects us in the end, and gives the wine the punch we like. Without it, you’d have regular old grape juice..

Overreach in PowerCompletely ruining the wine. Even if the fruit flavors are pure and delicious, if the alcohol is easily observed, it is a horrible flaw that will not make for a good experience at all. The wine will fall apart quickly, and the pure fruit flavors will quickly erode.
Underwhelming The wine will be delicious, and enjoyable, but you will finish the bottle and think, lets find a bottle of something else that will get the job done a bit better.


I find this extremely helpful in explaining the effects of each component and its influence of the structure of wine. Imagine the government system if the executive branch had ALL the power…with the Legislative and judiciary branches just letting the executive branch run wild….that would fall apart really quick and turn into something else very quickly….AKA VINEGAR…..
Same goes for the judiciary and legislative branches…without balance, nothing gets done, and the system comes to a grinding hault. Well, the same goes for a wine that is out of balance…This could be immediately, or over the period of a few years, but you should get a hint of that lack of balance upon tasting it young with some practice.

When tasting wine look for this balance in the “Power Triangle”. If you are looking for it, and are actively visualizing it, it’s quite noticeable.


This exercise will have an example of each branch being out of balance. Please verify in which direction each of the branches has strayed…either “under” or “over”

First 3 winners get some serious props and the cover for the next 3 articles.
Try to use this technique WITHOUT even tasting it to make an assessment on which flaw or flaws this wine resembles.

You taste a 2011 “Unnamed Winery” Napa Valley, Bordeaux Blend

Front Palate– you get bright red fruit mixed with background flavors of blackberry, currant and red licorice.
Mid palate – Flavors of black fruits, spice and bright cherry. A small burning sensation comes through but not overly apparent.
Finish – Warm dried currant, bright licorice flavors and blackberry coat the palate with hints of clove and spice, but lack structure. Finish is smooth and long, but lacks the zing presented at the front, falling off suddenly and harshly.


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Type your answers in the “Contact Me” section….GOOD LUCK EVERYONE


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