More Wine Words
Dry is a term that is used often in the wine world to describe wines that are not sweet. When something is sweet, the sugar coats your palate and causes salivation, which makes your mouth feel wet. If there is no sweetness in a wine, your mouth will not water and your palate remains dry. There are some wines that will use the term semi-dry, which in everyday language means semi-sweet.
Chardonnay aged in oak is often described as buttery. If you think of a stick of butter, the flavors are subtle and there isn’t much of an aroma. However, if you think of melted butter, whether it is on movie theater popcorn or being used to dip lobster, it brings a whole different flavor profile to mind and it is much easier to identify this flavor in a wine. Since the butter flavor usually comes from oak barrel age, other words used to describe this style of wine are oaky and creamy. If you decide you do not like this quality in Chardonnay, request un-oaked Chardonnay.
Many people confuse fruity and sweet because we think of fruit as being sweet. To differentiate the two, think of cranberries, lemons, limes, Granny Smith apples, and grapefruit. All of these are fruity, but not necessarily sweet. The same philosophy applies to wine. A wine can be very fruity, but still be dry.
I often use the texture of milk to explain the body of wine. Think of how different whole milk, 2 percent, and skim milk feels in your mouth. Skim milk would be described as light in body, two percent would be medium-bodied, and whole milk would be full-bodied.
The nose of the wine is simply the smell. This is a very important aspect of tasting wine that sometimes gets skipped. We can only perceive four tastes — sweet, sour, bitter and salt — but we can identify more than 2,000 different scents, 200 of which can be found in wine. We have all had a cold at some point where our nose was stuffed up and we couldn’t taste a thing. Or as children if we were forced to eat something we did not like, we would block our nose and then eat the food. This would mask most of the flavor. I know many of us have often seen a wine drinker swirling and sniffing a glass of wine that seemed a bit animated or over the top, but it really is the most important part of tasting wine.
The finish is the aftertaste. If the aftertaste of the wine lasts for a minute or longer, this would be considered a long or lingering finish. If the aftertaste disappears almost immediately after your last sip, this would be considered a short or nonexistent finish.