Wine Words: Style

Wines come in all sorts of styles. Style is a fairly broad term and can be used to reflect a specific category of wine; a wine's origin and traditions; different winemaking practices and philosophies adhered to when making the wine as well as market positioning.

Here are a few more thoughts on style and wine.

Style categories
There are a great many style categories, too many to detail all in this post. At the most basic level style categories cover whether the wine is still, sparkling or fortified; whether it is dry, off dry or sweet. More specific style categories would include recioto or ripasso (Italian wines made from dried/semi-dried grapes); botrytis wines such as Sauternes or Tokaji; ice wines or Vin Doux Naturel (VDN), a specific style of fortified wine made in France.

Style based on origin
Certain places are so synonymous with a certain style of wine, that these places are used as wine style words. For example, many wines made from blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are described as Bordeaux blends. Legally, unless the wine is made in Bordeaux it is not Bordeaux, but it is regularly used to describe such blends regardless of provenance.

A more general style based on origin is New World or Old World. Up front fruit forward wines, being typical of the New World style, and more restrained, mineral driven wines being generally Old World style. Today many New World producers make old world style wines and vice versa, such that it really is a style descriptor rather than specifically an indication of provenance.

Style based on winemaking practices and philosophies
Wine styles based on winemaking practices and philosophies are many and varied. Some wines can be described as traditional (earthy rather than fruity, more oxidative, with little or no new oak treatment) while others are described as modern (fruity, squeaky clean aromas and flavors, lots of extraction, plush, lots of new French oak treatment). Philosophies on grape growing and winemaking such as organic, biodynamic or 'natural' are also used to denote a style of wine, as can whether the wine is oaked or unoaked.

Styles based on market positioning
Today most wines under $10 are actually 'created' and 'manufactured' to appeal to certain market segments. Style words that I would use for this category include fun, modern, fresh, easy-drinking, party, crowd-pleasing and value.

Wine style statements
When describing a wine's style I typically consider whether it is young or somewhat aged and even mature, dry or sweet, full, medium or light-bodied, easy-drinking or complex, powerful or elegant, fruit-driven or terroir-driven, opulent or lean, suave & polished or honest and perhaps slightly rustic or whether it is for immediate consumption or age-worthy with cellaring potential.

Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant.

Previous Wine Words
Sweetness
Wine Words: Length and Finish
Wine Words: Minerality
Wine Words: Acidity
Wine Words: Tannin
Wine Words: Body
Wine Words: Alcohol
Wine Words: Aromas
Wine Words: Texture
Wine Words: Complexity

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Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. In 2012 she was honored as a Dame Chevalier de L'Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne.

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