What exactly is a wine's "structure"?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

My question is about the term “structure.” I know that those components present in the wine have certain structure, but what exactly does it mean when we are talking about the wine itself?

—Osvaldo G., Calgary, Alberta

Dear Osvaldo,

You’re right that “structure” refers to the relationship of different components in wine, such as acid, tannin, alcohol and glycerol. It’s one thing to describe the body of a wine (how it feels in the mouth, like the difference between skim milk and heavy cream, for example), or how the acidity might make your mouth water. But it’s the relationships between these elements that together make up a wine’s structure.

Structure itself doesn’t describe the flavor, but it’ll give you some clue as to how the flavors of a wine will age: wines with good structure are more likely to age well, while wines lacking in structure are unlikely to improve in the cellar.

—Dr. Vinny

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