Some wine definitions

Iwas asked by a few folks to continue from last week's wine article on specific wine terms relating to wine appreciation. Let's look at a few fun and important wine terms which are used in the world of wine to describe taste sensations. Here we go:

Balanced — We use the term "balanced" to describe a wine which has lovely, clean acidity and superb fruit. A balanced wine can also describe a wine which harmonizes well with sweetness and acidity.

If a wine is sweet but lacking in acidity the wine will not be thirst-quenching. This Kool-Aid, lacking in acid taste sensation, would be described as a wine without balance.

Many wineries find it necessary to inoculate acids into wines lacking acids to achieve balance. This is particularly true in hot growing climates as acids may not achieve desired levels.

A balanced wine is also a wine where nothing "stands out" in the wine, such as excessive oak, high tannins or perhaps a lack of an integral component such as palate weight or finish.

All wine makers try to achieve the most balanced wine they can make with the best fruit available.

Fruit, fruitiness, fruit forward — This is an important term to describe as it is the most misused term in wine appreciation.

The term "fruity" or "fruit forward" describes the sensation of fruit on the palate, nose as well as the color of wine (off color can indicate oxidation problems in wine) in the glass.

Many times wine folks will refer to "fruit" when they mean "sweet" or sugary and refer to "sweet" when referring to "fruit" in wine.

A wine can be grape varietal fruity in the nose and palate but be not sweet (dry) at all in taste.

There are, of course, fruity-sweet wines such as late harvest riesling but the terms "fruity" and "sweet" must be seen as their own descriptors which from time to time live harmoniously in a glass of wine.

Red wines such as Porto or late harvest zinfandels also have a fruity-sweet flavor which is very delightful to experience, especially after meals.

To many in the wine industry the terms "balance" and "fruit" are very important descriptors and are used on a daily basis to describe what is going on in the complex world of wine.

Softness — This is a term related to palate feel. A "soft" wine is a wine which creams out on the palate and shows no hard edges.

"Soft" wines are wine which "go down easy" rarely have oak introduction and can be slightly sweet.

These wines can either be red or white but share the same quality of easy quaffing and gentle front, middle and end palate sensations.

A typical "soft" wine would be a California central coast zinfandel or merlot which would display crushed fruit and creamy aftertastes.

"Soft" wines are many times not overly complex wines and can be one dimensional in character where this softness is really the heart and soul of the wine.

Well, there you have them! See you next week.

Lorn Razzano is owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland. Reach him at

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