Budding oenophile and wine terminology
Let's face it, getting older has it perks. With aging comes wisdom or so I'd like to think. So forking $20 to $30 for a bottle of wine is fine as long as I know what I'm getting for my buck. Wine terminology is somewhat baffling to say the least. While reading the descriptive of wine products I'm unsure as to what some of the terms really mean. Please enlighten me. Here are some terms which I would like explained in more mundane terms.
begins to show some complexity
One dimensional and short
I'm also curious about the rating system. Isn't this really subjective because of personal taste?
I asked the very same question sometime in the early '90's in the Compuserve wine forum. I even asked about some of the same terms. My advice: don't worry about descriptives. Just taste as much as you possibly can or afford. Read as much about wine as you can. Living near a winemaking area with tasting rooms helps. A lot. Good luck with the journey.
""I like it", "I like it a lot", "I don't like it" should suffice for your first 1000 btls."
That's certainly true for someone who is only trying to drink and enjoy, but it really isn't enough if you want to walk into a good wine shop and describe what you like. Most people reach that point long before 1000 bottles.
OK, let me qualify my statement.
Consumers tend to feel intimidated when approaching a new field.
Therefore the profusion of "... for Dummies" and related books.
The natural reaction is to try to "fit in", which more often than not is translated as trying to get acquainted as much as possible with the prevalent lingo, the more keywords the better. Which is not necessarily bad per-se, unless said consumer foregoes the basic principle: FEELING. Lingo is meaningless until ( or unless ) one has acquired some familiarity with the subject at hand. Only after some experience, consumer might start to understand a prevalent lingo, and/or develop one of his/her own.
Putting the emphasis at the beginning in the lingo and not in the feeling is putting the cart before the horse.
All of the above said under the influence of a 2001 Tardieu-Laurent Cornas Vieilles Vignes, which kind of baffles yours truly at the moment. The Guru said, back in 2003:
"The Cornas cuvees are the most concentrated, interesting offerings I tasted from Michel Tardieu’s 2001 northern Rhone portfolio. The 2001 Cornas Vieilles Vignes is aged primarily in new oak. It has soaked up all the toasty vanillin characteristics, revealing just a hint of new wood along with a wealth of blackberry liqueur, cassis, mineral, licorice, and espresso notes. Full-bodied and opulently-textured, with high tannin as well as extract, this is a 2001 to forget for 4-5 years. Anticipated maturity: 2007-2018." Six years later, all components are there, nose is fantastic, but still something is missing, it's never going to happen. Some disjointness, should I say?
I still like it, don't get me wrong, but wifey dismissed it with neglect, adducing "too much of a cellary nose". Go figure!
It is all subjective, but...
Round finish:not harsh (no hard tannins or bracing acidity) - often plump.
tightly knit: maybe a lot going on, but not particularly expressive... seems like it might be more giving over time.
fat: low acidity, showing little restraint.
leathery: tastes of leather
woody: tastes of wood.
complexity: lots of differing flavors
volatile: volatile... generally re: volatile acidity... think acetone.
One dimentional: not complex.
Short: not much finish.
Complexity and tightly knit are related--a kaftan can be complex, though sloppy, but tightly knit implies complexity that is all balanced and well-integrated, with no single or small set of flavors dominant. The result is that you have to really concentrate to pick out different flavors, but as you get to know the wine in a glass, it becomes a more engaging and rewarding experience. As a wine ages, it might become more giving or expressive over time. It's sort of a "I think this wine is pretty good and has potential, but I'm not 100% sure" type of term.
Finish refers to the final taste of the wine at the back of the mouth and throat. It's usually described in terms of length -- short, medium, long. A long finish means you can still taste the wine long after you've swallowed.
I've not ever heard of "round finish" ever. A wine can be described as round or full or voluptuous, meaning it is full of flavor and giving of that flavor, but that describes the experience of the wine in the front and middle of the mouth, not at the back of the mouth. Generally "round finish" is not used. Though a Zinfandel may be described as having a spicy finish -- a little kick of pepper at the back of the mouth.
Tightly-knit merely means the wine's sensory components and structure are not forthcoming. It's like they're locked up and indetectable. This is usually because the wine is young.
A well-knit refers a wine that has harmony in its flavor, and that all the wine's components seem integrated into a whole. A tightly-knit wine, after it's aged and its sensory components are revealed, may or may not be a well-knit wine or a harmonious wine. "Tightly-knit" usually suggests a complex wine, but that isn't always the case.
Fat refers to mouthfeel and a wine that feels thick or unctuous in the mouth, even something resembling an oily sensation. It is not pleasant.
Flabby refers a wine that has no acidity and no liveliness. This is usually because the wine is overripe.
Lean refers to a crisp wine high in acid, usually picked fairly young.
Leathery refers to the aroma of leather and is an indication of a certain strain of an infectious yeast called Brettannomyces, or Brett for short. At low levels, this leather aroma/flavor may be an asset to the wine and part of its complexity, but at high levels is almost always a flaw. It is inappropriate at any level in some types of wines. It's very difficult to control the degree of leatheriness in a wine. Brett can cause many undesirable sensory components in wine that are described as barnyard, "animal," and sweaty saddle.
Woody refers to the taste of wood, or unresolved oak. This is oak that has not yet become pleasant, and perhaps never will. It usually refers to a wine that is drunk too young.
Begins to show complexity -- means the number of aromas and flavors from the fruit, oak and winemaking is increasing. Said of a wine sampled before it's fully ready to be drunk.
Volatile refers to any aroma or flavor in a wine that wants to leap out of the wine liquid itself and into the air. This is why you swirl the wine in your glass -- to release more of the volatile aromas and flavors so you can smell and taste them. Also called volatile compounds or volatiles. This is a wine chemistry term, and not often heard in regular winetasting.
Volatile acidity, on the other hand, refers to a flaw in wine that smells like vinegar, or acetic acid. Abbreviated VA. It's related to ethyl acetate, but is not the same thing. Both volatile acidity and ethyl acetate are winemaking flaws.
Typicity refers to the standard flavors and aromas that a certain type of wine is supposed to have. Also called varietal correctness.
Emphatic typicity is lofty wording and sounds British. But it means the wine is a prototypical example of a type of wine. Instead, I would say something like, "This is a classic example of that varietal."
One-dimensional refers to anything undeveloped, ill-conceived, or not thought-out. Short refers to finish, see above.
Hope this helped. Some of these descriptors are easy to understand and others may take years to learn. But the learning should be fun. Friends who love wine can help guide you.
Google is, once again, your friend. A quick search brought up the following Wikipedia article:
It explains all except woody and leathery, which are usually taste/aroma characteristics of wood (usually oak from casks) and leather...... and volatile, which usually refers to acidic characteristics or vinegary taste/aroma. How to recognize all of these things is a much bigger issue....... one which requires lots of hard work. Enjoy!
Just found another very large online source: