ask dr. vinny

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 Chinese translator, working on something about wine. One tasting note I’ve come across reads, “boasting lots of dark currant and fig paste notes laced with loam, licorice snap and espresso flavors. The dense, fleshy finish lets a hint of roasted sage smolder. Very solid for the vintage." What does the “solid” mean? Do “notes” and “snap” both mean flavor?

—Xilin, Beijing

Dear Xilin,

Good questions. “Solid” might seem like a strange way to describe a liquid, but in a wine note, it typically means well-made, or of good quality. A slightly negative flip side of solid can also imply “not very exciting.” Sometimes it can also indicate a firm or compact wine, as opposed to a soft and supple one, depending on the context.

As I’ve said of “notes” before, it can refer to a flavor, aroma or both a flavor and aroma. Most of the time when “note” is used, it means it’s a component of a wine, not a dominating factor.

A “licorice snap” is a candy-coated black licorice. That doesn’t mean the wine is sweet or a dessert wine, it’s just a version of licorice, which has a slightly different nuance from red licorice, plain old black licorice, or even fennel or anise, which each are shades of licorice. I should point out that “snap” in a different context could be a reference to a vibrant acidity, the mouthwatering component in some wines. It could also infer an abruptness—if it, say, “finishes with a snap.”

—Dr. Vinny


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