Understanding industry jargon part 2

It seems that last week's article was a big hit so I'm going to give you a few more terms to work with for the following articles.

It is pretty frustrating to read something about wine and have very little idea of what the writer is talking about. I am finding that wine writers, in general, take for granted that the reading public knows what the devil they are talking about.

Many times I have clients come to me, wine article in hand, asking questions about what exactly a wine writer is talking about. This is happening with more frequency as time goes on and I think that most wine writers do not have the time or inclination (or both) to write clearly or with better basic understanding in mind while writing to those who are just starting the path of wine appreciation. Sometimes we writers (myself included) are so immersed in the everyday wine business that people get lost in the verbiage and we simply are unaware that this is occurring. So, again, thank you so much for the positive feedback; let's do it again.


162; Sweet-fruity: This has to rank high in the misunderstanding of wine appreciation. Sweet wines are those wines that show definite residual sugar in the wine. This is an interesting problem because many folks confuse the two issues: sweet and fruity.

Many times the term "sweet" is really meant by many wine tasters to describe "fruity" and vice versa.

Fruit is that flavor sensation(s) in the wine describing the type of varietal in "like-fruit" flavors such as Chardonnay having a "hint of apple" or a "hint of lemon." This does not mean that the wine has lemon or apple in it; it is only a descriptor as to what characteristics this particular wine shares with what we understand in the fruit kingdom. Not being able to share other fruits as descriptors to wine would cause a huge problem in trying to gain a common ground for discussion on wine.

The same holds true with (for example) Cabernet Sauvignon, which is many times described as having "dark cherry and other dark fruit flavors." This in no way implies any sort of sweetness in the wine nor does it tell us that any other fruit other than grapes are in the bottle.

Since we know that grapes are chameleons &

that they take on all types of other fruit family characteristics &

we can understand why wines are described the way they are. It is an interesting sidenote to say that very few people will bite into, say, a plum and describe it as tasting like Cabernet Sauvignon when the opposite happens all the time.


162; Sweet-fruity 2: Now, to add a twist to the tale, there are wines out there that share sweetness with fruit and sometimes with all kinds of spices such as "hint of nutmeg and cinnamon." Again, the grape being a sly chameleon, will pick up all kinds of flavors, which might startle the novice wine drinker into wondering what is going on in the glass of wine.

We know that fruit is always present in the nose and palate of the wine, regardless of how diminished it my be to our receptors. This is the nature of fruit wine of any type and should clearly be understood.

The level of sweetness happens (among other things) by virtue of yeast fermentation. Theoretically, the longer the yeast is in contact with the sweet juice the less sweet the wine will be because of the metabolization of the sugars by the yeast. If we harvest the grapes later, allowing more concentration of sugar, we can have "residual sugar," meaning that after fermentation is completed, sugar remains. Thus we have sugar and fruit. Later harvest (spatlese and auslese) German wines are the prototypical example of the marriage of fruit, sugar and clean acids which make them succulent and wonderful.


162; Checking alcohol levels: Usually, with notable exceptions, the higher the alcohol in the wine the drier (less sweet) the wine will be. If you are wondering about a white wine or ros&

233; wine, look at the alcohol declaration on the label. Unless the wine says "late harvest" or is a late-picked wine (which should be listed on the label), it will be dry over 12 percent alcohol.

Well, there's a bit more info for you. We'll see you next week!

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