what makes a wine taste thick?

Opened a bottle of white table wine from a local, now defunct, vineyard and winery. It’s not great, but what really stands out to me is the really thick mouthfeel, like a madeira. Is it fortified? Concentrated? Has a glug of honey in the bottom? Doesn’t have much in the way of aroma, except a almost invisible whiff of Sulphur, sweet, and citrus. there’s no clues as to process on the bottle, just “white table wine”. It doesn’t seem to be particularly high abv.


A combination of factors, one of which is, literally, the thickness/viscosity of the wine (caused by density, or the dry extract content of the wine). Separately, tannin also contributes to a “thick” mouthfeel, because the accompanying “drying” of your tongue further increases the friction of the wine as it flows over your palate. I think stronger flavors (bitterness, dark fruits, etc.) also contribute to the sensation that a wine is thick.

Welcome to Berserkers.

Details about the wine? Where’s it from? Varietal?

Thanks for the welcome. It’s from a local Oklahoma winery, nuyaka creek. No variety or vintage, probably a field wine. It was cheap. I picked it up when getting a mixed case of their fruit wines. I was never expecting very much out of it, but figured supporting the local economy was a good thing. Now I’m not so sure.

Sounds like lots of residual sugar.

I think glycerin has been debunked - IIRC a wine should not be able to have such levels of glycerine so that it would start to affect the mouthfeel.

I agree that some sugar is a likely element.

FYI, if you Google “Does glycerin make wine feel thick?” you’ll find many sites (Wine Spectator, various winemaking sites) saying that it does.

I read somewhere that the impression of thickness can vary depending on alcohol level. There’s a peak around 13.5-14%, and it falls off on either side

Peynaud wrote that “legs,” often incorrectly attributed to glycerol, were due to alcohol.

Agree that increasing sugar levels in any wine would make it thicker. Sugar-rich liquids (molasses, honey, syrup, and all types of very sweet wines such as Tokaj, Sauternes, etc.) are all quite thick.

Sugar, alcohol, pH (the higher the pH, the ‘fatter’ the wine will taste), varietal specific as well


Was it this one?

White Table Wine - with a rich, fruit-cocktail bouquet and a clean, crisp finish, this may be Nuyaka Creek’s best White Table Wine yet!

It’s 100% grapes, but looking at the list of other wines he makes, I sense a tendency toward sweeter wines. High RS, low acidity wines definitely feel bigger. That said; my layman thought is that it’s not just RS, but also actual starting specific gravity/brix. Oklahoma is hot and wet. Those grapes are gonna get juicy. He may also be choosing varieties that are just sweeter and lower acid than some “common” varieties.

And then you have the winemaking process… how much water did he add? Did he add sugar or tartaric acid (and when)? All those thing and a hundred more that a winemaker knows about could affect mouthfeel/body.

Larry —

You mention varietal characteristics. I notice a difference in mouthfeel between different “white Rhône” pure varieties. Like a Viognier “feels” bigger than a Roussanne.

Googled wine mouthfeel and glycerin (aka glycerol).

That makes glycerol the third-largest fermentation product after ethanol and carbon dioxide—but it’s a very distant third, a tiny fraction of the ethanol production. Studies suggest that the normal level of glycerol production is below or just at the threshold of sensory perception. A much-cited study by the Australian Wine Research Institute in 2007 found that while trained panels of tasters generally reported that wines with increased alcohol had more body and viscosity, as well as more hotness, the effects of increased levels of glycerol were quite mixed and much less pronounced. Home winemakers can simply buy bottles of glycerin syrup and give their wines any mouthfeel they want. But among the long list of products commercial wine additive suppliers offer for improving mouthfeel, elevated glycerol production is not a major selling point.


It is frequently suggested by winemakers, enologists and wine writers, that glycerol contributes positively to wine quality. The perceived contribution has been defined in terms of mouth-feel and texture properties, and is thought to be strongly dependent on the glycerol concentration in the wine. In general, higher glycerol levels are considered to improve wine quality. To date, the opinions regarding the relationship between glycerol and wine quality appear to be based on anecdotal and empirical evidence. In some instances, clear anomalies exist between the perceptions and actual data that have been obtained through experimental work. No positive relationship between glycerol per se and the mouth-feel attributes of wine has yet been established and several factors other than glycerol have been implicated in mouth-feel. These include the ethanol concentration, the yeast cell wall mannoproteins, barrel maturation, yeast autolysis, the yeast strain used, as well as phenolic compounds in red wines (Ribéreau-Gayon et al., 1998; Deltail & Jarry, 1992). Furthermore, at the concentrations at which glycerol is normally found in wine, the impact that it could have on the viscosity of wine would probably not be perceived by even the most experienced tasters (Noble & Bursick, 1984). Against this background it is quite possible that the perceived contribution of glycerol to mouth-feel can easily be over-emphasized.


In two studies where glycerol-overproducing yeast strains were used to produce Chardonnay wines, the quality of the experimental wines was, however, rated less favourably than the control wines, although glycerol levels in excess of 15 g/L were formed in some cases (Prior et al., 2000; de Barros Lopes et al., 2000). It should be noted that the attainment of the high glycerol levels (10 – 15 g/L) suggested by some panel members would have major implications on the carbon flux during yeast glycolysis. Reports in the literature show that the higher levels of glycerol formed are also coupled with elevated levels of other metabolites, notably acetic acid.


You can certainly buy glycerol and add it to your wine to “improve its mouthfeel”, but like I said, you’d had to add it such amounts that no wine would naturally reach those kinds of levels. I’m not even sure how allowed adding glycerol to commercial wines is around the world.

Read this recently:


could very well be. I don’t know that I would even call it a table wine, but I could see my husband thinking it was. But he likes alcoholic grape juice, so it might very well be a case of the winemaker knowing his market. Really, a madeira was what it made me think of immediately. It wasn’t “thick” in the same way that the zinfandels I’ve had have had a lot of body, but more like a syrup.

It’s been an interesting conversation, for sure.