I understand what is meant by fruity, spicy, sweet,
dry, those are straightforward. But what is mineral,
or earthy? I don't normally chew on dirt, and don't
see the attraction here. And what about buttery?
(which applies to chardonnay only, apparently)
Also. heavy/light, simple/complex, body, structure,
texture... can anyone explain these?
Tannic vs. acidic is also unclear. Tannic wines make
you pucker, right? I don't get it, are there really drinkers
who enjoy that? And is acidic different than tannic? If
anyone could a list of tannic vs. acid wines, I'll try
them side by side.
What's the deal on oaked vs not oaked? Haven't
brewers been aging wine in oak barrels since Socrates?
Most references to "oaked" have to do with new oak (first use
barrels). Older barrels (and larger containers like foudres, with more
surface space), impart more direct oak flavors.
I'm pretty sure that Dale meant that older barrels impart LESS direct
oak flavors. The flavor of new oak has several forms: American oak
often gives a vanilla-like flavor to wine, whereas French oak often
gives flavors akin to baking spices (cinnamon and nutmeg, mostly). If
the oak has been toasted, you also get toast-like flavors, and all oak
imparts tannins to wine (oak is HUGELY tannic -- ever tried eating an
The words you mention, Rich, describe lots of different things:
"earthy" and "mineral" describe smells. Most of what we get from wine
is from what we smell (even what we taste is mostly smelled). So, don't
you know what freshly turned earth or forest floor smells like? What
hot rocks smell like? That's what those terms reference.
"heavy," "light," "body" and "structure" have to do with mouth feel, the
tactile sensation of having the wine in your mouth. A milkshake feels
thicker in the mouth than a cup of tea, right? It would be a heavier
beverage. More subtly, coffee is usually a heavier beverage than tea.
The "body" of a wine describes how thick and heavy it feels. Full body
= big and thick; light body = thin and light.
"tannic" is also a tactile term. In the extreme, tannins make your
mouth pucker, but they also impart a sense of roughness to the mouthfeel
and also can contribute to the body of the wine. Most young red wines
will have some amount of tannic feel to them, but that fades with time,
which is why we age some red wines before drinking them. Some people
_do_ seem to like the feel of tannic red wines, though (they do go well
with steak, f'rinstance).
"acidic" has to do with how crisp or soft the wine seems. It has a lot
to do with the aftertaste. A crisp, acidic wine will leave little
aftertaste, whereas a soft, non-acidic wine will have a mouth-coating
feel to it. Think about the differences in aftertaste between milk
(soft) and tea or coffee (acidic).
For a more detailed discussion of these and other terms, you might
consider getting a book like Hugh Johnson's "Pocket Wine Book" (cost:
$10 from Amazon) which has a detailed glossary of wine terms as well as
a lot of other useful information about wine.
alt.food.wine FAQ: http://winefaq.cwdjr.net