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What Makes an Italian Wine Fruity?

Let’s do a little word association.

If we were to say “fruity wine”, what would be the first word that pops into your head.

For many people, the first word would be “sweet”. And it makes sense. When we think of fruit, we think of food that has a natural sweetness to it. Grapes are very sweet, of course, because they come loaded with natural sugars. Even citric fruits, like lemons and oranges, have an element of sweetness that tempers their more acidic nature.

We associate fruit with sweetness because fruit contains sugar.

And that association leads many of us to assume that all fruity wines are also sweet wines.

But is that really the case?

In this article, we’re going to explore what makes a wine “fruity”. We’re also going to dispel some myths about what fruity wines are, which will help you to figure out what people are really saying when they tell you that an Italian wine is fruity.

The Fruitiness of Wine

Let’s confront one of the oddest things about Italian wine.

Of course, we all know that wine is made using grapes. We’ve written a ton of articles on the production process and anybody with even a passing interest in wine knows that grapes are the main ingredient.

As a result, you’d expect wine to taste like…well…grapes.

But it doesn’t.

You will seldom see the taste of grapes listed as one of the notes you can expect from your bottle of wine. When fruity notes are present, they tend to be of apples, citric fruits, and dark berries. You may occasionally get notes of lighter fruits, such as strawberries. But you will rarely, if ever, drink an Italian wine that actually tastes like grapes.

And that means you shouldn’t expect any wine that has the same sweetness that grapes have.

A wine is fruity by its very nature, simply because of the main ingredient. However, not all wines taste fruity, even though all wines are made using grapes.

It’s a little confusing, isn’t it?

And things get more confusing when we dig into the concept of taste.

Fruity Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Sweet

Let’s assume you have a bottle of Italian white wine.

On a general level, that wine is going to have a citrus base to it. When you drink it, the wine will taste refreshing and acidic. It may also have an element of sweetness to it, though certainly not to the point where the sweetness is overbearing. In fact, it’s likely that you will pick out earthier notes ahead of anything that you might define as “sweet”.

Many an Italian white wine is actually better characterised as dry.

This means it has all of the properties that a wine needs to have to perfectly complement a meal. That is something that sweet wines definitely can’t do, as sweetness has a tendency to overpower the flavours of the food.

So, we have a type of wine that is definitively fruity because of the citrus notes. However, we couldn’t classify it as sweet because it still feels different than biting into an orange, for example, would feel.

What about Italian red wine.

With these wines, you tend to have a more complex mixture of flavours. Red wines tend to offer juicy notes of dark berries and similar fruits. Again, you will be able to pick these notes out of the complex bouquet of flavours on offer. However, the wines are still not sweet. Red wines offer more complex notes that temper the juiciness of the fruits, creating a far more complex experience than you’d get from drinking a fruit juice, which is definitely sweet.

So, what does all of this mean?

When we define a wine as fruity, we’re not necessarily talking solely about the flavour. The elements of the fruit can be just as important as the taste. Again, we point you towards the white wine example. These wines tend to feature the acidity of citrus fruits, even in cases where the wine doesn’t have any dominant citrus notes.

We also need to take the many other notes the wine offers into account. Earthy, mineral, and even floral notes all serve to temper the sweetness of a wine. This doesn’t mean that the wine will not have a fruity taste. However, combining those fruity notes with more savoury flavours will result in a combination of flavours that are decidedly not sweet.

So…Sweet Wines Aren’t Fruity Then?

Again, that’s not the case.

Plenty of sweet wines have fruity notes as well. In fact, it’s in these wines where the fruity notes seem to be more dominant than they are in other types of wine.

Why is that?

The presence of sugar.

We mentioned earlier that fruits have plenty of natural sugars, which is what gives them their fruity taste. And it’s sugar that is responsible for sweet wines.

We spoke about this a little while back when we explained what it means when an Italian wine is considered dry. Sugars are present in all of the grapes that a winemaker uses. Sugar is also what the yeast used in the fermentation process consumes, which leads to the production of alcohol.

Some winemakers alter the fermentation process that most winemakers use.

They either leave some residual sugar in their wine, which makes them taste sweeter. Or, they add sugar to their wines at some point during the process.

Buy a Fruity Wine

We’re not going to lie…

Even we get confused a little when somebody refers to a wine as fruity!

They could be referring to a sweet wine that seems to have heavy fruit notes, which is typically the result of high sugar content. Or, they might be referring to a wine that has a fruity base or consistency, such as an acidic white wine or a juicy red.

Whatever your description of a fruity wine may be, you’re sure to find it in the Xtrawine store. We stock everything from super sweet fortified wines to fruity (but dry) table wines. Browse today and we’re sure you’ll find something that suits your tastes.

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