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Ask the Winemaker                                                        by Chris Cameron

Q: What makes the “mouth feel” of the wine?

ANSWER – Wine is a very complex mixture typically containing some 9-11 alcohols and upwards of 600 organic acids to start with. A wine’s ‘mouthfeel’ will reflect many of these compounds but most notably acidity, sweetness, phenolics/bitterness and alcohol. Acidity is the lift or freshness immediately evident and is essential for the wine’s balance, sweetness should only occur in wines of a particular style (late harvest, dessert styles etc) and is noticeable immediately on the palate.

The residual sugar in typical table wines should be imperceptible ie., below 2 g/L. Phenolics occur mostly from skin contact and subsequently as red wines are fermented on their skins they have, by nature, more phenolics. They form a part of the wine’s complex structure and are perceived after about 7 seconds or so, right at the back of the palate. This sensation should accompany fruit flavour and not emerge as a sole physical characteristic that would be detrimental to the wine’s quality. Phenolics through oak tannins are also critical to a superior wine’s quality and are perceived in much the same way as skin tannins.

I mention alcohol for mouthfeel because higher alcohol wines (which Paso Robles wines are typical) offers a richness and is mouthfilling. This sensation shouldn’t, however, extend to a perceived ‘hotness’ on the palate from the alcohol being too high or out of balance. Some higher alcohols such as glycerol occur naturally in high levels in high calcium soils (typical of Westside Paso) and can add to the richness and textural mouthfeel of a wine. 

Chris Cameron is the winemaker at Jan Kris Winery in Paso Robles and has had a dynamic career in the wine industry with over 30 vintages and plenty of spectacular and challenging harvests, wines and winery experiences.
With his Aussie roots, quick wit and wealth of experience his contributions should not be missed. Read more, or ask your own question- Ask the Winemaker.

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