International Wine Guild Blog

Ask IWG: The Definition of Mead

Filed Under: Ask IWG

Oscar Monters from Austin asks the following: what is the legal definition of mead and its related labeling laws?

Great question. Mead (also called honey wine) is an alcoholic beverage that is produced by fermenting a solution of honey and water. It may also be produced by fermenting a solution of water and honey with grain mash; the mash is strained off immediately after fermentation.

Although called a 'honey wine', since it is not made from fruit or vegetables, it is legally classified as a beer by the TTB, just as sake is a beer.


Claude Robbins


Ask IWG: Acidity and Organic Pairings

Filed Under: Ask IWG

Camini from India asks: How do we calculate acidity in wines as well suggests food paring with Organic wines?

Thanks for sending in your questions.

There are several common acids found in wine.  First attack acids occur upon first drinking the wine.  These acids are malic and tartaric.  Malic acid is much like a granny smith apple, fairly tart.  Tartaric acid is found in wines that have been acidified, and it is bitter.  Second (or evolution) attack acids occur after the first couple of seconds of sipping the wine.  They are citric and malic.  Citric is found in lemons and tropical fruit.  Lactic acid is sour and can be found in milk.  A sip of buttermilk will never allow you to forget what lactic acid tastes like.  The only third (or finishing) attack acid occurs sometime after the first two.  It is succinc acid, which is somewhat bitter and a little salty.

With all these acids, they cause salivation, so even if you don't notice the flavor of the acid, you can always recognize acidity in wine due to salivation.  First attack causes salivation within the first second or so; second (evolution) attack acids cause salivation within two to four seconds; and the third (finishing) attack acid causes salivation at some point after this, and the salivation occurs from back to front.

To "calculate" how much acidity, just ask yourself how much it causes you to salivate.

To pair any wine, organic or not, with food, at its simplest, consider the "weight" of the food and the "weight" of the wine on the palate.  If the food "out-weighs" the wine, you'll never taste the wine.  If the wine "out-weighs" the food, you'll never taste the food.  Therefore, the best pairings will occur when the "weight" of the food and wine are the same.  Acid helps wash the palate clean of the food, aids in swallowing, and prepares the palate for the next bite.

Thanks again for writing to the International Wine Guild!

-Matthew Yoss


Ask IWG: Diabetes and Wine

Filed Under: Ask IWG

N. Callan from Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland asks the following:

What, if any, wines are suitable for diabetics? How can you tell by looking ay the label?

There are two issues in wine when considering diabetes: alcohol and sugar.  You need a wine that is low in alcohol and very low in sugar to be semi-safe for a diabetic to drink.  The only country I know that actually makes wine labeled for diabetics is Germany--and it is labeled (in German) as 'approved for diabetics' or 'genehmigt für Diabetiker.'  Although, by US standards, they would still be too sweet.

Of course, if you have low sugar you usually have high alcohol in wine - so producing a wine that meets both criteria is difficult.

Thanks for your question!


ASK IWG: How Tannins Are Felt in the Mouth

Filed Under: Ask IWG

P. Greer from Novato, Marin, USA asks the following:

Where in the mouth are different tannins felt? Grape skin/stem versus oak?

Thanks for your question!

Tannins typically attach down the tongue.  For most people, oak tannins attack the first third of the tongue and grape stem tannins attach the back (actually they can constrict the esophagus). As grape tannins become more intense they can also attack the teeth and gums. Grape skin tannins are much 'softer' and typically only attack the back of the tongue.

All tannins are also an astringent, so in addition to showing varying degrees of bitterness they also 'dry' out the mouth.  Grape stem tannins are the worst (most astringent), while skin and oak are less astringent and about equal.

Let us know if we can answer anything further,

Tynan Szvetecz, EWS, SWI
Master Candidate


Ask IWG: Understanding Calories and Sulfites in Wine

Filed Under: Ask IWG

Calories and sulfites in wineN. Callan from Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland asks the following:

I was recently asked about calories in wines. How do you know calorie count in wines? Is there any difference in grape variety, country, red or white? Is there any way of giving a rough estimate judging from origin, grape, alcohol %? I know there is the weight watchers wine range but its the tens of thousands of other wines available that i'm enquiring about.

I'm also wondering is it law now to state that wines contain sulphites? Most labels state this now but didn't in the past. I know they must be added so a wine will last awhile in bottle.


Thanks for sending in your #askIWG question!

Since 1988 (maybe 1987) it has been a Federal law that any product containing a carcinogenic must state the name of the carcinogenic on the lable - hence "contains sulfites."

There are two aspects of the law that are not often talked about.  First, there are exceptions to the law, for example, orange juice does not have to state it contains a carcinogenic.  In fact, OJ can contain as much as 10 times the amount of sulfites as wine.  Second, there is no reference to the quantity of the carcinogenic needed to replicate the cancer problems observed in the test animals (usually rats).  A person would have to drink about a 1000 gallons of wine a day for 10 years to replicate the levels of sulfites artifically placed in the test animals.  I don't think that is going to happen.

The law states carcinogenic "at any level" must be listed.  So, if you get do to parts per billion or parts per trillion it is still "at any level."

There are about 120 calories in a 4 oz glass of wine - red or white doesn't make a difference; there are substantially more calories in a late harvest or dessert wine.

For a complete overview of calculating calories in wine, visit this IWG blog post:

Learn all about these questions and more through the IWG Quick Class Finder:

Thanks again for your question!


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