When it comes to wine appreciation, how a wine feels in your mouth as you drink it can be as important as how it tastes – perhaps even more so. A wine’s texture is a crucial part of its enjoyment.
Yet, when you look at most wine reviews or marketing descriptions, you’re sure to see pointed evaluations of its perceived aromas and flavours with scarce mention of its tactile sensation in the mouth and across the tongue. As a result, wines become analogues to fanciful or frighteningly bizarre fruit salads. A red wine that tastes of blackberries, wet dog, leather, tar and cola, anyone?
While it’s difficult for novice tasters to find meaningful words to match the aromas and flavours they sense in a wine, it’s more challenging to describe how it feels. It’s problematic for experts, too.
How do you describe how a liquid feels? Liquid-y? Watery? Wet?
That said, talking about texture should be easy. Consider milk. The way it coats the mouth with a cool, smoothness is easy for many (at least, those who aren’t lactose intolerant or vegan) to appreciate. It’s certainly less subjective to describe than the aromas and flavours of milk, which are much more open to personal interpretation.
Unfortunately, however, we have precious few words to convey that textural element in wine. Beyond soft or smooth, crisp or harsh, there’s a staggering lack of language to work with.
Some wine minds like to refer to texture as “mouthfeel,” which is as cringeworthy and polarizing a word as moist, mucus or slacks. So, let’s not.
Individual thresholds for astringency, bitterness and dryness, all sensations associated with the tactility of tannin in red wines, help explain what makes some of us enjoy some wines, but not others. The aggressive nature of cabernet sauvignon or nebbiolo can be an acquired taste. The softer, suppler feel of merlot or gamay typically have greater appeal. In white wines, acidity can have a bracing mouthwatering or juicy zesty quality that attracts or repels.
A parallel could be drawn to preferences for styles of bed linen. Some enjoy the sleek sensuality of satin sheets, others prefer the cozy caress of flannel. The touch of a wine’s taste is a big part of its appeal. You’re tempted to have another sip simply because it feels good.
This week’s recommended wines include a range of textures, from the tart and refreshing Toscolo Chianti Classico to the serious and savoury Culmina R & D Red Blend and the fruity and fine tannins of the Buzet Sans Sulfites Ajoutés to the impressively smooth and elegant Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon. I hope many can see advantages in each of these well-made wines, depending on mood or occasion, but pay heed to the styles of wine you like. Don’t just rate the taste, but how it feels so you can seek out similar taste experiences.
Castello di Gabbiano Cavaliere d’Oro Chianti Classico 2016 (Italy)
In the Middle Ages, the Cavaliere d’Oro (Gold Knight) was rumoured to protect the Castello and vineyards that are now home to the Gabbiano winery. That historic reference now anchors one of the most successful Chianti brands in Canada. Made in a ripe and enjoyable style, the 2016 Chianti Classico delivers attractive red fruit with floral and spice notes. It’s an ideal pizza, pasta or burger wine. Available at the above price in Ontario, $19.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $14.99 in Manitoba, $20.79 in New Brunswick, $19.99 in Nova Scotia, $21.95 in Newfoundland.
Château des Charmes Gamay Noir Droit 2017 (Canada)
This variation of the gamay grape – it grows straight up, standing taller than other gamay vines – has been cultivated by Château des Charmes in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., since the 1980s. Winemaker Amélie Boury kept this ripe and spicy red out of oak barrels so consumers could appreciate its unique flavours. A gamay with stuffing and personality, this is ready to drink and should continue to develop nicely in bottle over the next two to four years. Available in Ontario and Quebec at the above price.
Culmina Family Estate Winery R & D Red Blend 2016 (Canada)
Grapes grown on Culmina’s low-yielding vineyards on the Golden Mile Bench in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley are used to produce this dry, serious and savoury blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot. Peppery spice and dried herbal notes feature prominently beside black fruit flavours, with supple tannins and a long aftertaste. The rich and structured style is made for the dinner table – the winery suggests serving with spaghetti and meatballs – and best enjoyed now to 2022. Available direct through culmina.ca.
Les Vignerons de Buzet Sans Sulfites Ajoutés 2018 (France)
Produced without any added sulfur, this fruity and enjoyable blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot comes from the largest wine producer in the Buzet appellation in southwestern France. A dry, bistro-style red with attractive fruit and fine tannins, this is ready to drink. Vegan friendly. Available in Ontario at the above price, $14.40 in Quebec.
Pelee Island Chardonnay Non-Oaked 2017 (Canada)
This clean and simple chardonnay presents appealing citrus and tropical fruit notes, with some sweetness on the palate. Made without any oak influence, this easy-going white is ready to drink. Available in Ontario at the above price ($11.45 until March 29).
Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (Australia)
Margaret River in Western Australia rivals Coonawarra for Australia’s best cabernet region bragging rights. Prices for prime examples have skyrocketed, which makes this accessible example one to watch. It offers ripe cassis and cherry flavours with some chocolate, cedar and herbal notes. Impressively smooth tannins and an elegant structure make it ready to drink now.
Vegan friendly. Drink now to 2028. Available at the above price in Ontario ($19.95 until March 29), $24.99 in Nova Scotia, $24.98 in Newfoundland. The more restrained 2017 vintage is various prices in British Columbia and Alberta and $25.99 in Saskatchewan.
Simi Chardonnay 2018 (United States)
Established in 1876, the Simi brand has deep roots in California’s Sonoma County. Made with chardonnay sourced from vineyards spread throughout Sonoma, including Alexander Valley, Russian River and coastal locations, this approachable white is made in a ripe and toasty style. The mix of fruit from cooler and warmer growing regions results in a nicely concentrated wine with flavours of apple, citrus and tropical fruit enhanced by subtle spice from oak aging. It’s ready to drink now and over the next three years. Available in Ontario.
Toscolo Chianti Classico 2016 (Italy)
This is a bright and fragrant red wine that captures the food-friendly charms of Chianti Classico. A dry red with tart red fruit, pepper and floral notes, this is best enjoyed with a meal. Drink now to 2023. Available at the above price in Ontario, $29.98 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta.
Plan your weekend with our Good Taste newsletter, offering wine advice and reviews, recipes, restaurant news and more. Sign up today.