Now we're going to cover the more esoteric terms. Some you may have heard before, and some may have you scratching your head. But they are all good to know if you want to speak the sultry and seductive language of wine.
Complex - When a wine expert says a wine is complex, he or she means they've a wine that they never get bored with and find interesting to drink. Complex wines tend to have a variety of subtle scents and flavours that keep your attention. If someone you're with says "this wine is wonderfully complex", just reply "Mm, I like it too."
Acidity - acidity is critical to how nice the wine tastes, and how long it lasts. The natural acids in wine are citric, tartaric, malic, and lactic. Wines from hot years are usually lower in acidity; wines from cooler wet years tend to be higher. Acidity can maintain the wine's freshness keep it drinkable for years, but too much acidity masks the wines flavours, and is a big no-no.
Malolactic - a sort of fermentation process that gives wine a creamy, wonderfully buttery taste and feel. Often found in Chardonnay.
Chary – heavily toasted barrel flavour. We hesitate to say burnt as that is not usually desirable, but in a barrel it is great.
Persistence - something that hangs around, but in a good way. Could be a taste, could be a smell.
Mineral - tastes of cold river stones, or wet gravel, or whatever other poncy term some wine writer has come up with. You’ll know it when you taste it. Very common in Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, is minerality.
Recently Disgorged - usually used for champagne-style wines. The deposit that has formed on the neck of the bottle during the secondary fermentation is briefly frozen, the yeast removed and replaced by a dosage of wine and sugar. Then the cork is placed in the bottle and the wine is left to rest for a time in the cellar. What does all that mean? Really mean? A) that the guy making the wine knows what he's doing and B) that the wine will taste much nicer. Spade Oak methode champagnoise wines are all recently disgorged. Look for the date on the bottle.
En Tirage – when the wine sits on its lees or residual yeast. The longer it sits, the smaller and more integrated the bubbles. Has to be good.
Batonage - an ancient trick this one. It means stirring the wine on its lees, the deposits of dead or residual yeast and other particles that precipitate, or are carried by the action of "fining", to the bottom of a vat of wine. It gives the wine balance and a creamy mouth feel.
Phenolic - Phenols affect taste, give red wine colour and act as a preservative during the aging process. Being part of the tannin thingy, they create their fair share of jargon too: "The weight of a wine on the palate is largely a result of the interaction of phenols with other compounds in a wine. Because these interactions change through ageing, the perceptible astringency can be very different in a young red when compared with an aged one"
"Phenols are a class of compounds containing a phenyl ring and varying substituents. This class of compounds is found in many organisms; from animals and plants to small microbes. They are used by animals and microbes as defense mechanisms, and by plants as protection by stopping biologically active growth inhibitors."
What does this mean to you? Well phenols are developed as a defence mechanism for plants, so the more stressed the vines are, the more phenols the plants will produce. So hot, dry years when the vines struggle a bit means better wine.
There you go! You are now fluent in the world of wines. Now get out there and taste them all. (Start with Spade Oak for sure!)
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