Wine Descriptors

If you deign to read tasting notes in this or other reviews, you encounter fervent attempts to render highly subjective sensations of nose and palate into memorable metaphors and florid adjectives.

Aside from obvious—most red wine descriptions include “cherry,” many chardonnays include “apple,” most New Zealand sauv blancs include “grass”—writers strive to distinguish themselves by delivering specificity beyond comprehension: “echoes of wilted rose suppleness,” “melted fig and Black Forest cake,” “linzer torte and late-harvest red currant preserves.”

This is just blather to entertain – nothing wrong with that – but intermittently over next months we visit common descriptors to give general idea of what the heck we strive to communicate.

• Minerality. Spell checker says this is not a word. In wine dictionary, however, it refers to aroma or taste of sea salt, or concrete after rain, or chalk, or your tongue when you lick rocks (some actually try this). Found in white wines; you know it when you taste it.
• Body. Weight and fullness in your mouth. Body can be light (skim milk), medium (whole milk) or full (cream). Full body usually means high alcohol and concentrated fruits; it can be a good thing, especially after several glasses.
• Chewy. When wine is full body, it can have high glycerin and fleshy feeling. When wine has body and high alcohol and you think you should masticate before swallowing, wine is chewy. A plus if you like that sort of thing.
• Delicate. Opposite of chewy. Subtle, understated, shy, coy, flirtatious. Usually refers to quality white wine. A plus if you like that sort of thing.
• Balance. What you want. Fruitiness, tannins, acidity, body in harmony. Holy grail of winemakers. When in wine review, consider buying the wine.

Tasting notes:
• Kendall-Jackson Riesling Monterey County 2011. Very rich lemon, honeysuckle; fruity, off-sweet with balancing acidity; standard KJ quality. $12
• Edna Valley Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2013. Big, clean citrus; grapefruit; really crisp, tongue-cutting delicious; perfect food pair. $15

Last round: “It is a naïve wine without any breeding, but I think you will be amused by its presumption.” – James Thurber.

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