What exactly is a wine's "structure"?

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,

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

Collecting Storage How to Taste Tasting Descriptors Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

What is the benefit of “keeping wine on the dregs”?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what a wine's "dregs" are and why some wines …

Jan 30, 2023

How do you soften a hard cork?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what happens after a wine bottle is opened, and …

Jan 24, 2023

How long can Champagne be stored in a wine cooler?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what happens as sparkling wine ages, how long it …

Jan 17, 2023

I shook a bottle of wine with sediment and now it's cloudy. Is it ruined?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains where sediment comes from, and what to do if …

Jan 9, 2023

Can a cork-tainted bottle of wine cross-contaminate other bottles in my cellar?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how and when cork taint or TCA contamination …

Jan 3, 2023

Dr. Vinny’s Wine Care Clinic: Top Tips for Safekeeping Your Wine Bottles

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny answers all your wine storage and serving questions!

Dec 27, 2022