Wine lingo—descriptors

Continuing exploration of wine terms; today—more descriptors.

Floral. Usually associated with lighter whites, it means—guess what—aroma of flowers, often transferring to the taste, too. This can be complex and wonderful in quality wines and desirable for aperitifs to begin a party.

Crisp. Usually descriptor of white wine with good acidity and light body. Real plus in a summer sipper or an early pour at a party—an aperitif.

Creamy. Often said of wines that underwent malolactic fermentation and were fermented and/or aged in oak. In chardonnay, creamy also associated with buttery. In cabernet sauvignon, creamy often described as smooth.

Jammy. Generally a negative from a wine writer; indicates wine tastes like the “J” in a PB&J (peanut butter and jelly) sandwich. Refers to cooked berry sweetness and syrupy mouth feel. That said, many people like jammy. Over-ripe zinfandel as varietal or part of a blend contributes to jammy, so can grenache, Australian shiraz, cabernet franc. Don’t get jammed up about this if you enjoy this quality.

Oaky. Also, thanks to wine guru Gary Vaynerchuk—“oak monster.” Refers to over-use of oak in wine making. Some oak can be wonderful, but oak also can be used as pancake makeup to cover flaws. Oak contributes many good things—vanilla, toast, chocolate, coffee, and oak flavors themselves. Different people respond to oak in different ways; some have tolerance, others do not. Generally, oaky means if you like oak, you will like this. Oak monster, however, never is a positive.

Smoke. Some wines naturally have smoky aromas—Côte-Rôtie in northern Rhône typically has a smoky bacon-like aroma, for instance—while others acquire it from heavily charred oak barrels. Plus or minus depending on your nose and palate.

Tasting notes:

Valdo Prosecco Brut DOC: Golden apple, pear, honey, wonderful aperitif. $11-15

Anna de Codorníu Brut Rosé NV: Signature dark red color adds festive note as aperitif; nice, affordable Spanish cava. $15

Toad Hollow Merlot 2013: Almost sweet with fruitiness, plush, tasty. $15

Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut Champagne: Clean, polished, lightness performs very well as aperitif, plays well with food. $43

Last round: Enjoy wine you enjoy. Those who matter, don’t judge. Those who judge, don’t matter.

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