There is a reason why we called the blog 'vine language' and that is because when it comes to wine, there are a lot of funky words thrown around which can make it all seem a little intimidating. Knowing some of the buzz words and most importantly, what you like within the buzz words, can help in finding a bottle of wine that is right for you, especially when tasting them all isn't an option. There is no way that one blog post can give you all the definitions you'll ever need, but part 1 will tackle some big hitting words or phrases.
Fruit forward or Savoury
There is no hard and fast rule, but wine tends to fall into one of these two categories. Knowing which you like will help identify wines in the future from those sometimes impenetrable tasting notes.
Fruit Forward: These are wines that have, surprise surprise, a dominant flavour of fruit, specifically sweet fruit. However, this does not refer to it's sweetness, just it is bursting with sweet fruit aromas. Common words that are used to describe these wines are jammy, juicy or ripe. They are often associated with the 'new world' style of winemaking (more on this another time) and they often have a higher alcohol level. An example of this style of wine is the KWV Petit Verdot from August's wines of the month.
Savoury (or earthy): On the other end of the scale are the savoury wines. Confusingly, these can still be fruity but their fruit flavours are more on the bitter/sour/tart spectrum. Synonyms for savoury wines include herbaceous, high minerality, blackcurrant (red wine) or lime/lemon (white wine). Domaine St Paul Viognier Marsanne is an example of this style of wine.
Light-Medium-Full bodied wines
A phrase often bandied about when it comes to wine is how light or full bodied it is. The 'body of the wine' refers to how the wine feels inside your mouth (mouthfeel), which is largely dictated by alcohol content, grape variety and the wine making techniques. Another way of thinking about it is, how rich the wine tastes. Knowing what this is and what you like, can help you identify wines you might like more easily.
Light bodied: These wines tend to have a lower alcohol content (12.5%). Grape varieties that result in light bodied wines are Pinot Noir, Gamay and Sauvignon Blanc for example They will have lower tannins (more on these another time but you know that feeling of your teeth being a bit furry/coated, that is tannins) and they will be lighter in colour. An example of this style of wine is the Albert Bichot Julienas.
Medium bodied: Typically these wines will have an alcohol content between 12.5%-13.5% and these are the ones to pair with food. They tend to have dominant red fruit flavours, medium to high acidity and medium tannins. Some of the big names are: Cabernet Franc, Sagiovese, Merlot and Primitivo.
Full bodied: These are the wines that you put in your mouth and you feel like the inside has been coated. They are dark, leave legs on your glass and will have a higher alcohol content. The grapes to look out for if this is your style are: Shriaz, Malbec, Petite Sirah and Oaked Chardonnay. Also oak aging tends to add more body to a wine.
It is important to note here that a fuller bodied wine does not imply quality. There is sometimes a misunderstanding that full bodied = quality but in reality there are bad, good and great wines in every category. Knowing what you like is much more important.
Length and finish
'Length' and 'finish' are two more words that are commonly used when tasting wine that are sometimes hard to decipher what they are getting to. Although often used interchangeably, they are do not mean the same thing.
Length: This is pretty literal and refers to how long the taste of the wine stays in your mouth (or on your palate) after you have swallowed the wine. The reason why this is often referred to is because wines with a 'longer finish' (aka hangs around longer) are considered to be a higher quality. The Chevalier Monopole Brut is an example of a wine with a good length to it.
Finish: Whilst the length could be thought of as a measurement, the finish should be thought of as a description. As you tasted the wine did you taste different things or did the wine feel different in your mouth at the beginning and the end? The finish refers to whatever came last. As this is what the wine leaves you with, a wine with a good finish is often seen as being of a higher quality. However, unlike length, this will be more about personal preference. This could be a whole subject in itself but the headliners are:
Smooth finish - tends to result from a wine having less tannins or alcohol and predominantly featuring fruit.
Spicy finish - this is often associated with a more 'complex' wine but if you like a wine that leaves you with the taste of anise, cinnamon, cloves, pepper or other well known spices then look out for this.
Bitter finish - not the best sounding and not the most popular but a wine with a bitter finish is likely to pair