When you hear about the important attributes that define wine, generally the one given the most standing is the first impression you get from the aromas, that first sniff from the glass. However, we’d like to use this post to talk about the importance of texture.
Because even more so than aroma, texture defines what most of us don’t like. Which can keep us from finding what we love.
So what do we mean by texture? Simply put, texture refers to the way the wine feels. Words commonly used to describe texture include "heavy," "silky," "sharp," "bright," "gritty" and "smooth."
Let’s be clear: texture is not the final piece of the “amazing wine puzzle.” Instead, it’s the equivalent of getting the sky out of the way in one of those 1000 piece landscape jobs.
To elaborate, when deciding on a wine, most of us start by considering the feel, weight and viscosity we are in the mood for that evening, and then determine the flavors we’d like. In other words, the first step we take - deciding upon the texture we want - happens fairly subconsciously. Going a step further, most of us already have a whole list of textural attributes that we cross off as out of the question.
So why is it important to recognize this? What’s wrong with going with your gut?
Nothing, really. Except that by avoiding digging a bit below the surface when it comes to your wine's texture, you run the risk of conflating textural characteristics with other attributes. The clearest is assuming that you simply don’t like white wine, or red wine, when in reality you may not like the acidity of the whites you have tried, or the tannins and high alcohol of the reds.
There is no more common troupe when it comes to wine than either “I just don’t like red wine” or “I just don’t like white wine.” However, the underlying texture may be the true cause of your disdain for the color of the wine. You may not like Cabernet Sauvignon, for instance, because it feels like gooey sandpaper, but in all likelihood you have no aversion whatsoever to the flavors of currants, blueberries, allspice or black pepper. Many other wines have some, if not all, of these flavors, or similar ones.
To understand texture as a whole, it encompasses the essence of the wine: fruit, structure, acidity, minerals, oak influence (if any), meaty, chewiness and finish also known as length. A wine coats your palate and the good ones give you a mouthwatering effect to enjoy another sip, or yet another glass. Texture is related to the body of the wine, a classic example used in many wine courses, we make the comparison that light body is similar to skim milk, medium body to 2% milk and full body to whole milk.
The color of the wine being the deciding factor in a wine decision represents only one of the many pitfalls that stem from ignoring the importance of texture in wine. Other examples include hating a varietal based on its most common style. Chardonnay has fallen victim to this over the last decade. The thick, buttery, semi-sweet “oak-bombs” that flooded the market offend people mostly because of their texture, not their flavor. Throw in some counter-balancing acidity and lower the alcohol content, and suddenly you have a very different (and pleasant) wine without changing much regarding the wine’s flavor.
To finish, we hope this piece has given you a little insight into 1) a bit about how wine works, and 2) how you can use this to your advantage to broaden your preferences. Or, at the very least, talk yourself into a bottle that’s *gasp* darker (or lighter) than you’d normally reach for.