Mineral, Textural, Savoury
An insight into some of our favourite wine jargon
The wine world is well known for its pompous flair with the english language - for a long time wine writing has been associated with a reliable amount of literary embellishments. We try to keep things a bit lighter here, and try to keep jargon to a minimum, but there are some word we really can’t do without when it comes to talking about wine. If you haven’t come across them, or understood them before - this is your chance.
A word that is thrown about readily by wine-lovers, but hard to articulate for even the most erudite. Clumsily articulated, it can be likened to the flavour experience of licking a rock. Not very romantic, true, but hard to explain it any more succinctly. Also described as “slatey” or “gravelly” the term mineral is describing this unique element of a wine - which creates layers of flavour, making the drinking experience altogether more complex. The debate of how this “mineral” element comes from grape-to-glass is a conversation which needs a whole article of its own, but if you want to explore more wines in the mineral flavour spectrum why not try our “Salty Whites” Pack?
Broad, chewy, waxy, round - these are all flavour descriptors that could apply to a “Textural” wine - typically one that is white, pink, or orange (texture is a pretty much a given when it comes to reds). This texture is not normally a characteristic of the grape, but of a deliberate winemaking technique. Here are a couple of common ones:
Lees, the dead yeast cells left over after fermentation, will begin to decompose over time - if a wine is left on lees long enough, this decomposition will release sugar and proteins into the wine. This process can be exacerbated by “bâtonnage” - stirring the lees to increase their contact with the liquid.
White grapes are traditionally crushed as soon as they arrive in the vineyard - this early separation of the juice from the skins preserves the bright, fresh fruit characters and prevents any of the phenolic bitterness or tannins coming from the skins getting into the finished wine. But some winemakers want to include this - skin-contact, often for weeks or months, is obilgatory to make “orange” wines, but has also been employed by winemakers to add richness and weight to their whites.
Barrels, Amphora, Tanks
When a wine ages there are a number of process that are happening. Aside from the obvious passage of time, and the effect that has on the wine, the choice of vessel for aging will contribute to the texture, and at times, the flavour too.
The most obvious vessel is an oak wine barrel, now symbolic of the industry as a whole. Aging wine in oak imparts flavours like vanilla, cinnamon and baking spice. Oak is also porous, meaning that it allows in microscopic amounts of air to the wine - this interacts with the flavour molecules in the wine and breaks them down into new compounds - layering the wine with different flavours and textures that could not have been achieved otherwise.
Concrete tanks or amphora are also used for fermentation - these vessels are porous but inert - meaning they impart no flavour of their own, but influence the flavour by allowing the micro-oxygenation to take place (Oak barrels lose their inherent flavour as they age, and older oak is generally considered to be mostly inert also).
Stainless steel tanks are inert, and allow no passage of oxygen - commonly used to preserve bright, fresh and fruity aromas and flavours.
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