Wine Character

Definition - What does Wine Character mean?

Character is a wine term used in three main ways:

  1. To denote a quality wine with distinguishing qualities.
    Eg. "This wine has character."
    The wine is instantly identifiable, with unique personality and complex flavours.
  2. To refer to the style and weight of a wine.
    Eg. "This wine is light in character."
    The term is used to refer directly to the weight or feel of a wine.
  3. To describe the taste or smell of a wine.
    Eg. "This wine has nutty characters."
    The term denotes specific tastes or smells that are difficult to qualify further than a general comparison, in this case "nutty".
The specific character of a wine is created by the grape variety, terroir, climate and winemaking techniques. No two wines have the exact same characteristics, though many come close.

WineFrog explains Wine Character

In wine descriptions, you’ll often hear the word "character" bandied about usually combined with an adjective or descriptor. The most common use of the word is to describe the overall sense of the wine. Pretend that a glass of wine is like a character in a book. The type of wine it is, will be its "character" - if the author (aka winemaker) has done their job right, the wine’s character can be classified with more than one wine term. Here are some of the most common:

  • Assertive
  • Attractive
  • Balanced
  • Big
  • Crisp
  • Closed
  • Complete
  • Complex
  • Delicate
  • Dense
  • Developed
  • Depth
  • Elegant
  • Fading
  • Flat
  • Full-bodied
  • Graceful
  • Neutral
  • Potent
  • Robust
  • Round
  • Soft
  • Supple
A wine’s character is effected by several factors; these can include:
  • Grape variety
    Each variety has its own character that it imparts to the wine it produces.
    Eg. A Sauvignon Blanc will be a different combination of the above than a Chardonnay.
  • Terroir
    The soil the vines grow in effect the fruit itself, which in turn effects the character of a wine. Eg. A Sauvignon Blanc from Chile will be different than one from Italy.
  • Climate
    Sun, rain, wind, snow - all of these have a different impact on the growth of a vine.
    Eg. Two Chardonnays from the same estate but different years will have different character profiles, albeit the differences will be subtle.
  • Winemaking techniques
    Oak, fermentation period, blend - these all have a significant effect on the character profile.
Characters can be "off" when a wine has been made improperly. A wine is "faded" when it tastes bland or dull - the character has disappeared.
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