Illustration by Alyssa Nassner
The word supple may make you think of the tactile feeling of velvet or soft, well-worn leather. Similarly, those sensations are what your sommelier hopes to invoke when they say they have a nice, supple wine to pair with your dinner.
When it comes to wine, supple is all about the mouthfeel. Most commonly, you’ll hear this term used to refer to a red wine as having “supple tannins.” This means that, while tannins present themselves in the telltale grippy feeling between the teeth/gums and cheeks, they also take it easy on you, giving a softer sensation than another wine with a harsher tannic structure would.
“Supple tannins are well integrated, providing a positive sensory effect that does not overwhelm the other key aspects of a wine,” says Sam Dhiman, graduate student researcher in Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis.