This review contains an explanation of terms since it has been a while since I have explained “my” wine terminology. If our language is unintelligible to the masses, we have not accomplished what the Wine Cask blog is all about; namely to enrich your wine appreciation experience no matter what your level of expertise (or lack thereof).
*The term varietal is the name of the specific grape used in the particular wine. A “varietal” wine will be made from one specific grape primarily as opposed to a “blend” of several types in a mash of juice. A “varietal” wine will have the name of the grape of on the label. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, are all varietals, to name only a few.
Whether a wine is a “varietal” or not is regulated by law which varies on the particular locale. In other words a wine from one region or country or region may only be required to have 55% of the grape which is named on the label and the rest is some other type of grapes(s). But a different region or locale may require 75% of the named grape in order to put it’s name on the label.
*The “nose” of a wine, at least in my terminology and use, is the smell of the wine when you get nose right down into the glass after swirling the wine. Swirling the wine isn’t just for show; it causes the wine to volatilize and release little particles of “smell” into the air. Swirling helps you smell the wine better!
*The “Bouquet” is the smell of the wine from a bit of a distance from the glass. This is not a universal way of using these terms; they are mine. I use them because most wines smell quite different from just above the glass versus sticking your nose right down into the glass. Each provides you different aromas hence a better description of what’s in the glass.
*The palate is the mouth where the wine is “tasted.” Proper technique requires an ample amount of wine to be taken into the mouth allowing it slosh over every part of the tongue and oral cavity. While still holding the wine in your mouth, purse you r lips and carefully slurp some air into your mouth gurgling it through the wine you are holding. This does for the taste what swirling does for smelling! Once you have done this you can either swallow the wine—the best part—or spit the wine out if you are tasting a lot of wine or driving somewhere afterwards. Remember—the more wine you “taste” and swallow, the less discriminating your abilities become…both in tasting and driving!
After you have swallowed or spit, now taste the flavors and textures left behind. Do they last a while or are they gone immediately? This is called the *“finish.” A nice finish will keep imparting flavors, perhaps even new flavors you hadn’t tasted before swallowing and will go on and on. Some just seem to stop with no ending at all.
Tannins are chemical complexes in wine that comes from the skins and or the process of fermentation/aging if done in wood barrels or with wood chips. If you bite just a grape skin, you will get a puckery, drying sensation like water is being pulled out of your mouth. Those are tannins and they are “good” when they are in balance. It is tannins which enable a good wine to age. Young wines will sometimes be overly tannic because they require time to relax chemically. This is why certain wines are best to be aged sometimes for many years but most wines, the vast majority of wines produced are meant to be drunk in the first couple years in which they are made.
The structure of the wine is the overall composition and balance between all the various elements you taste and smell. Ideally, everything should harmonize into one beautiful experience.
This is not a comprehensive guide to tasting. I haven’t talked about a wine being “hot” or sour, flat, or fresh, flabby or vibrant but this is enough for today.
Wine is more than just tasting, it is a whole experience, and a wonderful one at that; why do you think Jesus turned water in to wine as the first miracle of His public ministry?
Now just what kind of wine would the Creator of the world have made?