Wine descriptors Part Six 5-8-2024

This is the final episode of our adventure into the world of wine descriptors.

• Spicy: Various grapes contribute spice—syrah, zinfandel, petite sirah, malbec, grenache, gewürztraminer, riesling, and viognier typically are cited as being spicy. Oak barrels also impart spice. Common spice flavors are cinnamon, pepper, anise, clove, nutmeg, ginger, and mint. For most sippers, a slice of spice is a nice thing to encounter in the wine.

• Dry, Semi-dry, Sweet: Refers to the amount of residual sugar. In broad terms, in dry wine, all the sugar was converted to alcohol. In sweet wine there is residual sugar. Semi-dry falls in between. These are the general terms. Still wines and sparkling wines have different nomenclatures and more nuanced divisions. In still wines, going from driest to sweetest, the wine can be bone-dry, dry, off-dry, medium sweet, and sweet. In sparkling wines, going from driest to sweetest, the wine can be brut nature, extra brut, brut, extra-dry, dry, demi-sec, and doux. Sweetness often is the first characteristic you notice when tasting wine.

• Final thoughts: Wine descriptors—and their fellow partners in crime, wine scores—are inherently, patently imperfect, sometimes ridiculous. But we live in a chaotic world assaulted by a hurricane of choices. We rely on others to help separate the wheat from the chaff all the time. Recommendations from family and friends for all manner of things. Book reviews. Movie reviews. Restaurant reviews. Customer reviews.

And so it goes with wine. Can written words perfectly describe the experience you will have with a specific wine? Of course not, and every reputable wine writer knows that and will be quick to tell you. In the best case, the words entertain you and give you some assistance as you face a wall of wine choices at your wine store, supermarket, or online seller. Imperfectly passing on knowledge and experience is the skill set that makes us humans.

Tasting notes

• Gillmore Collezione del Maule, Valle del Loncomilla, Chile 2020: Blend of four Italian grape varieties grown in Chile. Exceptionally smooth, sophisticated, delicious. $18-20 Link to my review

• Van Duzer Dijon Blocks Estate Grown Pinot Noir, Van Duzer Corridor, Oregon 2021: A bit more assertive darker fruits than other efforts, it also has impressive complexity and layers. $57-65 Link to my review

• Stags’ Leap Winery The Leap Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Grown Stags Leap District 2018: Consistent winner from one of Napa’s most hallowed districts by one of Napa’s premier makers. $90-115 Link to my review

Last round: A little known rule is that all employees of IKEA have to stand in a line in the meeting room before every shift. Some assembly is always required. Wine time.