Check out the new, mobile-friendly WineSpectator.com!
Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
I’m a freshman of wine tasting from China. I’ve found some difficult terms in tasting notes. In this one note that reads “primal, with a still-milky edge and a touch of reduction,” what is an “edge” for a wine? What does “still-milky” mean? Or “primal”?
—Scorpio J., Guangdong, China
Because tasting notes are personal, sometimes the vocabulary a taster uses might not jibe with the same way you’d describe a wine yourself. While I can give explanations of all those terms, it’s most useful to look at a wine term in the context of the tasting note at large.
“Primal” usually means “youthful”, and when it comes to wine, that means a very fruit-driven character—kind of like a barrel sample, if you’ve ever had a chance to try one. It also suggests that the forward fruit flavors haven’t quite melded together yet. Likewise, “secondary” often refers to nuances a wine takes on with more bottle age, as the fruit flavors mellow out and become less exuberant. It’s typically a positive note, but again, it depends on the context.
“Still milky” I believe in this case is referring to the texture of the wine, not its flavors. Even though this wine is primal and youthful, it still has a smooth, rich edge to it. “Milky” and its richer cousin “creamy” are usually very positive descriptors of a wine’s body. If the tasting note just reads “milk” or “cream,” then that might refer to a flavor.
I’m having a little more trouble thinking of how to describe “edge” to you, and I realize it’s used in a lot of tasting notes. Outside the world of wine, an “edge” is something at the border, away from the middle. In a tasting note, it usually means it’s not the primary flavor, but a more minor note. I often use it to describe a note that’s present, but in the background. Another definition of “edge” is something sharp, like a blade. In a tasting note, that might refer to a nervy acidity, or a slightly distracting characteristic. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a way to express a wine’s personality.
Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...
Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more
Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.
Passionate about wine? Wine Spectator magazine is looking for an enthusiastic copy editor in the New York office.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions
New! Ratings Flash | New! Unfiltered