Introducing our Wine Styles

May 12, 2021

Wine styles are a bit of a tricky one, especially when the terminology used can range from anything like "soft and fruity" to "granite". Where do you begin? 

"Soft and fruity" doesn't always sound that appealing, even if the wines that fall under that label are exactly what you're looking for. You might be in the mood for something with great minerality, something clean, salty acidic and steely, but that could be a red or a white wine.

There are a few terms we tend to use at Wine List HQ - terms we started using amongst ourselves and terms we've borrowed from our favourite wine bars and importers. They've become part of our everyday lingo, so we thought we'd share them with you.

We've created our own set of wine styles (which we'll refer to in videos and in our newsletters, as well as to categorise wines on our store). These will no doubt change over time as we discover and share new wines with you. But they're a great starting point, nonetheless.

The idea behind our wine styles is that it will make it a little easier when you're trying to find a new wine to try. "I want a wine like Duzat" would be a good starting point and go from there.

Let's be clear, we aren't laying claim to some of the terms we've included here, but we've used them as the best possible indicator of the wines we sell, send out and talk about.

A Guide to our Wines

By the sea

What makes a wine "By the sea"? There's two things to look out for here. First – does it taste of the sea and have that mineral salinity? Second, does it suit being drunk by the sea, with a shellfish platter or salty charcuterie at hand? If either, or both, of these are a "YES", then it's a "By the sea" wine. Some of these grapes will have been grown near the sea, whereas others are just reminiscent of the coast.

Why not try?

Gavi Marchesi Spinola from Castello di Tassarolo Bio Winery in Italy is a Wine List exclusive and one of our bestsellers. "A wonderfully fragrant and fresh white wine with aromas of rose, nougat, apricot, orange blossom and chamomile." £19

Clay

Making wines in either qvevri or amphora gives a wonderful quality to a glass of wine. Qvevri and amphora are two ancient winemaking vessels (as explored in WR3) made of clay or terracotta that are used to ferment wine. As a result, there's texture here and tannins from skin contact with the grapes. That said, the tannins and acidity are softened due to the porous fermentation vessels, but you don't get vanilla-y flavours as with oak barrel ageing.

Why not try?

El Carro de la Mata by Finca Casa Balaguer comes from Alicante, where the small family behind the winery use organic winemaking practices. "An orange wine which knows it. Hawthorn and grapefruit on the nose, with an electrifying palate." £17

Crunchy

Crunchy has multiple connotations to it. Here at Wine List, we think of this as being highish acidity, medium tannins, and a real zippy crisp quality in the mouth. They're mostly red with aromas of cherry or cranberry or raspberry. They can sometimes taste a bit stemmy or woody or herbal. Likely grape varieties are cabernet franc, gamay, pinot noir (note: most Burgundy doesn't fall into this category, but most chillable reds do.) Whole cluster fermented wines – tick. Whites are rarer, but not impossible.

Why not try?

L'Hurluberlu by Sébestien David is a firm Wine List favourite - and it's another of our bestsellers. If the bottle reminds you of cherry coke, that's a nod to the cherry notes you'll find here. "L'Hurluberlu is arguably the current king of crunchy red wines." Find out for yourself for £17

Decanter on the table

These are wines which we think deserve a decanter. They're richer, and riper, and likely have higher tannins. We don't want the word decanter to make you run a mile. It's supposed to normalise decanting some everyday wines. The decanter on the table also refers to the table explicitly. These are wines we like with food and with friends. Josh's personal taste steers him away from wines like this, so drinking something decanted with a group of friends may be preferable.

Why not try?

A Wine List exclusive like Ruen from Augeo Family Estate would work perfectly at a shared meal with friends. It was our March core red and remains a firm favourite amongst the Wine List community. "This red is velvety, but not overwhelming. Rounded, with blackberries, raspberries and vanilla." £18

Elegant

So what happens to a wine that is at the lighter end, but doesn't have that crunch to it? What about great Burgundy, or some central European blaufrankisch, which has been fermented in oak? Here, elegant comes into play. Elegance can go in multiple directions. Some great Burgundy is elegant. Some Champagne is elegant. And sometimes there's some elegance to be found in a glass of rosé.

Why not try?

Maximus by Nicolas Carmarans tricks you at first. It seems rich, but is smooth and full of red fruits. "I tasted most of Nicolas Carmarans wines when I was in the Lot Valley between lockdowns last year. He's an incredible winemaker with great consistency." £25

Fireside

Fireplace wines take us to winter. These will be wines to drink slowly, maybe with a book. They're probably higher in alcohol, likely ripe, perhaps savoury in an aged way. Fireplace wines can go well with food, sure, but unlike a decanter wine, they feel just right as they are. And despite that high alcohol, heaviness, we could – given the right circumstance – polish off the bottle quite easily.

Why not try?

It's not a wine, but we included the Château du Montifaud cognac in our Christmas box in 2020. "This is an incredibly smooth drinker, with some great subtle complexities for the heads." Expect smooth warm notes and a nutty finish - perfect on a chilly evening. £30

Park

As Josh says, "With a chorus of Blur in my head, last year in Warwick Gardens in Peckham, I felt I discovered exactly the wines for the park." These can be all colours. Still or sparkling. They are likely lower in alcohol, and less complex. Wines which might feel one dimensional if you had them with food, but come to a perfect harmony when paired with the park. Reds which you'll probably want to chill, whites which are softened – no harsh acids, but not super rounded either. And rosé too of course. When it comes to sparkling, think more pet-nat, less Champagne - but never say never.

And they all go, hand in hand, hand in hand with their park wine...

Why not try?

È Rosso! This litre of red from Italian winemaker, Poderi Cellario, is a firm Wine List favourite (Isabelle has called this the 'Park Wine of 2021'). Handily, the bottle has a beer cap so no need to take a bottle opener to the park... "This is juicy, vibrant and delicious." £19

Textured & round

Before getting into wine, Josh had no idea these types of white wine existed. "I used to be think white wine all tasted like sea wine or sauvignon blanc." Until, that is, he discovered chardonnay and chenin, and all the other wonderful wines and winemaking styles that bring texture and depth to the palate. Expect lees ageing, skin contact, and grape varieties which accentuate these characteristics.

Why not try?

Saint-Romain White Burgundy by David Moret, whose vineyards are located in the valley west of Auxey-Duresses, where over half the wine produced there is white. "Lemon, apricot, and vanilla on the palate. It’s rich, but before you know it, it’s all gone.” £37

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