I called upon fellow wine blogger Bill Eyer, author of the wine blog Cuvee Corner. I really like his writing style and he gives some brutally honest reviews of wines that he has tasted. I think it would be a credit to your bookmarks to add his blog to your list.
I asked him if he would be willing to tackle the word “structure” since it is a word used by many wine writers in describing a wine both white and red. Bill did an awesome job! Here is what he wrote…
“The characteristic of Brunello is its longevity,” Biondi Santi told Wine Spectator last year. “Nature is capable of creating beautiful things—you just have to wait.” And in order for you to wait for that wine to mature, then said wine needs to have the stuffing to go the long-haul. That’s something we wine-geeks call structure.
Let’s face it, not all wine is created equal and I know, I know that’s not what you’ve heard from your friends around the wine-cooler. But stick with me, all will be explained below. And for the average garden-variety vino-sapien out there, you probably don’t care too much about a wines structure. But let me frame it this way; a wine without good structure is like having that second cup of coffee brewed from the grounds of the first cup. Now you feel me don’t you?
Like the quote above from the Godfather of Brunello, if a wine is meant to go the long-haul which much of Brunello is, it’s going to need structure. And like any building, structure in wine is the foundation, for which every other component in the wine hangs upon. It was just the other day; I tasted through some very elegant and interesting Italian vino which got me to thinking about a wines structure and what does that really mean anyway. Some were what I call everyday drinkers, not much too them but in the short-term they were very tasty and got the job done.
Now this is where the nerd meets the herd [eye roll] it’s time to define what all this talk about structure means to you and to the wines you may or may not be consuming. There are mainly two aspects of any wine which defines its structure and, those are acid and tannin. On one side of the structure coin you have acidity; this is what gives wine its shape. If the acidity is too high, the wine will be piercing, taut, and linear [like sucking on lemons] and if there is too little acidity then the wine will feel flabby and or soft. Think about your mid-section, if you have high acid, you’ll see a freakish six-pack and if you have low acid, you’ll see a muffin top. Neither of those two extremes is good.
And on the other side of proverbial structure coin you have tannins, which contribute to a wine’s structure in more of a textural sense. Going back to that coffee example above, think about a dark-French roast and, drinking it black. Take that first sip and you’ve just experienced high-tannin and just like coffee, wines which are high in tannin will give you the impression of drinking your coffee black [not something most folks like]. Wines with high-tannin like this can feel like a kind-of velvet-friction [think cotton balls] on your gums and on the insides of your mouth. Typically tannins in wine come from the skin of the grape, seed, stems and barrels in which they were aged.
But what if the wine is too low in tannins; then the wine will appear soft and round in the mouth with just a nod to its overall texture. Of course the best wines are the ones which strike the perfect balance between acid structure and tannin structure, when these two facts come together perfectly they contribute to a wine’s overall mouth-feel.
And going back to a point I made earlier, while not all wines are the same, unfortunately there seems to be a trend of far too many wines being made today, being made in a mass-marketed monolithic style. So that said, if you’re looking for wines with recognized structure and, great aging potential then you’ll have to spend a bit more than $9.99 a bottle.
San Diego, Ca
There you have it, I could not have done a better job myself. I want to thank Bill for taking the time to add this definition to my “Words of Winedom”. Cheers! Stan The Wine Man