What are wine tasters trying to communicate when they describe “texture”?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

What are wine tasters trying to communicate when they describe “texture”? For example, how is a wine “taut”?

—Joseph, Bellport, N.Y.

Dear Joseph,

Describing wine’s flavors can be difficult. Describing its texture might be even more challenging. But texture is an integral part of the best wines in the world, and winemakers employ a whole arsenal of techniques to create a desirable texture, from barrel aging and lees contact to malolactic conversion, among others.

Texture (sometimes referred to as “mouthfeel”) refers to the way the wine feels in your mouth. It can be smooth, coarse, creamy, waxy, velvety or silky. “Taut” is another way to describe a wine that’s “firm,” which I’ll get to in a moment.

The texture comes from the balance of the elements in wine—alcohol, sugar, tannins, acidity. If it seems a bit silly to discuss the texture of wine, think about how texture affects they way you appreciate food. Brie is creamy, while Parmigiano is crumbly. A filet mignon is more supple than a chewy rib eye. Gelato is rich and unctuous while a sherbet is crisp. Most people prefer carbonated soda to flat, or fresh, crunchy popcorn to stale. Sometimes textures are what we do or don’t like about foods. While the range of textures in wines might seem limited, it really can help distinguish wines from each other.

As I mentioned, “taut” is another way to describe a wine that is firm or tight. It’s neither a positive nor a negative term. I’d expect a light-bodied white wine with a lot of acidity to be taut, or perhaps a young red wine with lots of firm tannins.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny Tasting Descriptors Winemaking Techniques Explained

More In Dr. Vinny

In Italian wine, what’s the difference between DOC and DOCG?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the geographical wine classification system in …

Oct 4, 2022

Is it OK to brush my teeth before tasting wine? Does toothpaste change the way wine tastes?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny explains why brushing your teeth and wine …

Sep 26, 2022

What’s the difference between Hermitage and Ermitage? Are they the same wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what the H is going on with Hermitage vs. …

Sep 19, 2022

When traveling, are any wines more or less susceptible to bottle shock than others?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the phenomenon of "bottle shock" and how to …

Sep 12, 2022

What’s the best way to remove a crumbly wine cork? I’ve tried everything!

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers tips for extracting crumbly corks, and how to …

Sep 7, 2022

What’s the difference between Petite Sirah and Syrah?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains that Syrah and Petite Sirah have quite a bit in …

Aug 29, 2022