Continuing exploration of wine tasting descriptors.
• Fresh. Clean, lively, joyfully dances on your palate. Young and very good old wines can taste fresh. Amazing but true.
• Supple. Soft, velvety, lush, silky, round, tasty. A good thing.
• Hot. Refers to alcohol, not temperature. When high alcohol causes burning sensation in the back of your throat, it is hot, is not good. Wines over 14.5 percent alcohol risk hotness. Fruitiness can balance hot. If wine is hot, drink another glass and you will stop worrying about hot, but don’t drink that wine again if you can’t remember its name in the morning.
• Jammy. Very concentrated fruit. Great vintages made from excellently ripe fruit by superior vintners are wonderfully jammy. But for commodity wines made from excessively-ripened, hot-climate vineyards, jammy is more like Concord grape jelly, and it is not good. Hey, these descriptors can mean almost anything.
• Lively. Usually describes young, white, thirst-quenching wines with good acidity. Good thing.
• Length. Describes finish of swallow when taste pleasingly lingers on your palate. Thirty seconds is gold standard for great length. Particularly in young wines, length separates great wines from good wines.
• Oaky. Some folk fervently favor oak, others despise “oak monsters” that leave splinters in your mouth. Oak contributes many qualities to wine: toast (from charring of barrels), vanilla, smoothness, oak odor. Oak should not dominate. Commodity wines often use oak to cover flaws. Biggest divide may be Chardonnay, where oaky chards seduce some, stainless steel (no oak) chards titillate others. Matter of taste—everything in wine is matter of taste. Generally, more oaked the wine, less well it pairs with food.
• Trapiche Oak Cask Malbec Mendoza 2012. Plum, pepper, cheery cherry, blueberry; good acidity, round, smooth, easy drinking, oaky, but gosh it’s good. $10
• Robert Oatley Margaret River Chardonnay 2013. Light-medium body; tasty peaches, grapefruit; caress of oak, vibrant acidity, gentle citrus. $17
• Franciscan Estate Merlot 2011. Restores your faith in merlot; dark fruits, balance, layers of mocha, leather; delicious, exquisite effort. $21
Last round: If your heart is warm with gladness, you need a glass of wine. If your heart is chilled with sadness, you need two glasses of wine.