Wine Words 6

Big wines need big descriptors & here we have just that.. Whereas one word feels like an obvious compliment, the other is guised, or perhaps I should say weighted: the strong undeniable tarry connotations of asphalt need something less manmade & caustic to soften & fill it out.  If balanced well it is a treat to behold & make for a memorable wine.  Both words are bandied about regularly for big-hitting reds & both give an idea of the overall body & feeling of a wine.   Read on for a more in depth look at them in individual use..



Asphalt |ˈæsfælt |


Referring to all sensory points: smell, taste & feel of a wine, asphalt is that strong, smokey & slightly sweet distinctive punch that can either define full-bodied red wines or destroy them depending on how well it is balanced with fruit. In this case, it defines!


Like: BBQ leg of lamb


For example: “Another 2009 that exhibits over the top extravagance and richness, and one I can find no fault in, the 2009 Cote Rotie La Landonne offers a colossal and full-bodied profile that carries incredible aromas and flavors of roasted meats, smoke, asphalt and assorted meatiness that’s all grounded by a massive core of fruit. A huge wine, it stays perfectly in check, with notable freshness, a deep, layered mid-palate and masses of fine tannin that carry through the finish. Hide this beauty in the cellar for another decade and enjoy.”

(Robert Parker reviewing Côte Rotie Landonne, Guigal 2009)




Opulent |ˈɒpjʊlənt |


Refers to the style of a wine; a generosity throughout the whole drinking experience. Oplulent wines are generally viscous in the glass; give strong, characterful noses; warm & full in the mouth & leave you feeling sated & yet like luxuriating in a little more.


Like: Chocolate fondant


For example: The single vineyard wines begin with the 2007 Shiraz Barney’s Block McMurtrie Road in McLaren Vale. It was aged in 50% new French oak for 20 months. Opaque purple-colored, it offers up a captivating nose of sandalwood, incense, lavender, bacon, and blueberry. Velvety-textured, layered, and opulent (a rarity in this vintage), it has enough fine-grained tannin to evolve for 3-4 years. This lengthy effort has a drinking window extending from 2013 to 2027.

(Robert Parker reviewing Barney’s Block Shiraz 2007)





The Author

Helen Richards

Helen Richards

Hely's love of wine was born from a young age, spending summers exploring the vineyards of France. After studying Modern Languages at Oxford, she worked in publishing and branding before joining the JF Tobias team to help build our blog / written content. She loves wine, writing, yoga and adventure in equal measure and strives to balance all four, although not necessarily all at the same time!