Current Wine Descriptors

I’ve been thinking about how certain descriptors seem to come in and out of fashion, and whether they have the same meaning for everyone. Recently the word “confected” has caught my attention and I’m wondering how people interpret or use it.
Instinctively it makes me think of something a bit sugary, or to do with sweets but in fact it simply means made or put together from various elements. I suppose therefore any GSM wine for instance is “confected”. However I don’t think that’s what it’s being used to mean. How do other people interpret it in wine terms? Or does it actually have some standard meaning in wine terms? Any enlightenment?

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Certain critics are very fond of ‘linear’ and ‘smart’. I’ve no idea what either mean.

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We had some discussion recently about the difficulty of pinning down some descriptors and the fact that language is very slippery and personal when it comes to describing what one is sensing.

‘Confected’ has also caught my eye recently, and to my mind is trying to describe something a little artificial in the flavour of the wine, with some over-emphasise on sweetness (as in ‘confectionery’).

I also noticed ‘sappy’ appearing more and more - god knows what that means. My WSET tutor confessed to have issues with ‘minerality’, and ‘linear’, as per @Richard’s post is another one I personally struggle with.

For me, it always comes back to the fact that these descriptor are approximations; images intending to communicate a very subjective experience, and language - alas!- is very limited on this front; so we all repeat the same established adjectives (I confess that even when I write ‘bright acidity’ I have no real idea what my mind means), with some coming in-and-out of fashion, probably influenced by wine critics/writers language.

I don’t have a problem with linear, though I can understand why some might. For me, it’s a wine that’s precise and stays on the same path - i.e. what you get on the bouquet is also on the palate and there’s no change to it in the finish.

I agree with @inbar about confected - something that’s a bit forced or artificial with connotations of sweetness too.

I have a problem with ‘sweaty saddles’ for Syrah or ‘petrol’ for Riesling, because I just don’t ‘get’ them…:slight_smile:

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Just wondering if it’s still easy to walk straight if you stick to drinking linear wines.



For me “petrol” is actually one of the easiest and most accurate terms to understand because I think that’s the smell that you get from some Rieslings.


Just shows how we all differ! I can sort of see why it’s said, and I know what smell it’s referring to, but it’s not really petrol for me…at least not the stuff I put in my car!

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I guess the alternative to that is kerosene or even rubber. Like @Andy999, it’s one of the easiest smells for me to detect in a Riesling, but I agree it’s not always ‘petrol’ as such; sometimes it’s more elastic band smell, or a tennis ball smell even.

How subjective is this experience?! :thinking:

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In my experience, this is most often used when describing Beaujolais or other light, fresh wines and I’ve always understood it to mean a red wine with a fair bit of fruity acidity, fresh tasting with little tannin to get in the way of a juicy mouthfeel. Or I could be entirely wrong…


*** take this with a pinch of salt ***

If you put ‘sappy’ in the TWS search engine, you get 11 hits. Apparently a case of the following wines will give you a masterclass in ‘sappy’. I guess it must be the common denominator… I see no obvious pattern emerging.

the society’s fino
janare aglianico sannio 2016
half bottle of chinon ‘le temps des cerises’, domaine de la noblaie 2016
carvalhais duque de viseu, dão 2017
crozes-hermitage, domaine pochon, 2015
barbera d’alba, nadia curto 2017
pinot noir, coteaux du grésivaudan, domaine finot 2016
muscadet sèvre-et-maine sur lie, château l’oiselinière de la ramée, chéreau-carré 2015
domaine tawse, gevrey-chambertin en etelois 2015
felton road bannockburn central otago pinot noir 2016
salem wine co. oregon pinot noir 2015

PS - in comparison ‘linear’ has 4 hits, all Chardonnays (including one by Crystallum I was not aware was in stock, but now I am aware…)


Hm! this is very interesting!.. I, too, can’t detect a pattern uniting these wines.

When I asked My WSET tutor about ‘sappy’- he said it was trying to describe a texture, like a plant sap (which I also have seen recently). But as none of us are quite accustomed to tasting plant saps, I don’t know where this had come from or whether he was right and it is not a ‘taste’ as such but a 'texture (then again- what is the texture of a plant sap?).

On the other hand, @VinoVeritas’s explanation does make sense. But all this confusion just shows the inconsistency with at least some of these ‘fashionable’ descriptors. Unlike, say, ‘buttery’ - which actually alludes to a real process by which MLF converts the malic to lactic acid, sappy just sounds a little fanciful.

Yes, very interesting. I also wouldn’t expect sappy to come up for white wines, so I’m quite surprised. A “sappy” muscadet seems almost a contradiction, though I haven’t tried it.

I haven’t tried using the search engine like this before, but if you put in confected you get no results at all, so now I wonder even more about it. I don’t disagree with the idea of slight artificiality and sweetness, like a fizzy pop drink, but it doesn’t come across as strongly or clearly as petrol, or tobacco, or chocolate, etc.

Now, I’m sure we’re all sensible adults, but just in case enthusiasm gets the better of one of us, some plant saps are either toxic, caustic or otherwise very unpleasant, so let’s not try any folks! (with my H&S hat on!)


If you put “horizontal” into the TWS search…you get no result
Perhaps everybody stayed “vertical”… Must have been tasting non-alcoholic wine or beer .:innocent::smirk:


@Inbar’s husband seems quite good at taking on these toxic tastings for us…he can now tell us which wines taste of mild bleach…:slight_smile:

The only common denominator amongst the ‘sappy’ wines seems to be relatively low tannin…which doesn’t really take us very far.


Thanks for the warning. Just imagine how different the saps of the rubber tree and the Canadian maple are…

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Even Retsina doesn’t register …:flushed: As sappy that is !!



[puts down the sprig of yew]


Indeed! And Birch trees give a very similar and edible syrupy sap to Maple. Still, won’t be licking trees any time soon. Though I do hug birch trees quite a lot (my favourite trees!) :wink:


It wasn’t his greatest moment, for sure! :thinking: But he does provide excellent entertainment!

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