Wine Importing and Marketing Services

What Does ‘Chewy’ Mean in Wine?

Illustration by Pablo Tesio

At first glance, it may seem odd to apply the same textural assessment to wine as one would to a chocolate chip cookie. But if wine can be crunchy, it can be chewy too.

“A chewy wine would be overtly structured and/or concentrated,” says Chris Fladwood, winemaker at Soter Vineyards in Carlton, Oregon. “I’m thinking of a young Cabernet Sauvignon, where the youthful (and plentiful) tannins would be overwhelming for your palate and therefore cause you to move your mouth around as if you were chewing.”

Andrea Vanni, wine educator at Poggio Torselli in Tuscany, agrees.

“It refers to the meaty and thick consistency of the wine as if you were to chew it,” he says.

Vanni provides Tuscany’s high-yield Sangiovese grapes as an example of a chewy wine. The warm Tuscan climate, highly tannic grape and oak barrels all contribute to the thick and meaty consistency of Sangiovese.

But what actually makes a wine chewy? As Fladwood alludes to, it has to do with tannins.

Tannins are a group of astringent chemical compounds found in red wines and some white wines. They come from the grape skins and seeds, as well as the wood barrels sometimes used during aging. Tannin concentration varies across grape type and climate, accounting for a range of characteristics in both taste and texture.

During a sip of red wine, tannins interact with proteins found in saliva. In high concentrations, this strips the mouth of moisture and results in a dry mouthfeel, creating the intuitive desire to chew.

Other varietals often described as “chewy” include Nebbiolo, Syrah/Shiraz, Tempranillo and Merlot.