The Wine Independent has a few new style filters that are not available on other wine criticism websites. Why? Because after price, Wine Style is the most important consideration for consumers. Do you want to drink red or white wine tonight? Something bone dry or something unctuous and sweet? These are primary considerations.
The more you know about wine, the better you can describe what you like. Say you want a Chardonnay, but you only enjoy a delicate, light-bodied style? Or maybe you prefer a creamy-textured, full-bodied style? Maybe you’re looking for a Chardonnay with lower alcohol? Or something more decadent? Perhaps a Bordeaux red composed mainly of Cabernet Franc, because you prefer the flavors, freshness, and texture of this grape.
All this information may (or may not) exist in the tasting note, but when faced with thousands of reviews and precious little time to read them, it can be challenging to find the style of wine you prefer. At The Wine Independent, we want to make it quick and easy for you to find exactly what you’re seeking. And that’s why we’ve included the following style filters:
The body is the sensation of the wine’s weight on the palate, closely linked to its viscosity or thickness in the mouth, due to internal friction. This textural thickening mainly correlates to increased levels of sugar, dry extract (i.e., tannins and anthocyanins), and/or alcoholic strength. Other components such as glycerol can lend a minor contribution, but sweetness and alcoholic strength are the most significant contributors to the sense of weight in the mouth. Having said that, dry white wine of the same alcohol level as dry, deep-colored, tannic red wine tends to be lighter bodied due to its lack of tannins and anthocyanins, contributing to texture and weight.
Wines that seem lighter in the mouth are light-bodied; ones that feel heavier are full-bodied, with light to medium, medium, and medium to full-bodied falling in between. We professionally assess the body level of every wine we taste, knowing well its components and how to judge them accurately.
Alcohol is a component of wine, largely synonymous with the primary type found in wine: ethanol. Wines can contain from around 3% alcohol by volume (e.g., Tokaji Essencia) up to 20% or more (e.g., fortified wines). Wine also has minor traces of “higher alcohols,” sometimes contributing to aromatic profiles and complexity. Knowledge of the alcohol level can be necessary for health reasons and also helps you understand the wine’s style. For example, alcohol is closely linked to the body of the wine, it contributes to viscosity and can lend a sense of warmth to the palate and finish at higher levels.
At The Wine Independent, we’ve done our utmost to include the alcohol levels of the wines we review so that readers can filter by alcohol percentage (ABV). Sometimes, the winemaker provides this information or gives it on a technical sheet, which tends to be the most accurate and preferred source. Otherwise, we take this information from the wine’s label, which can vary from the actual alcohol level by 0.1-1.5%, higher or lower, depending on the judgment of the winery and the legal requirements within the country of sale. Therefore, the stated alcohol levels available on this website are to be used as a rough guide, but The Wine Independent does not responsibility for the accuracy of the information given. Unfortunately, sometimes the alcohol information is not available at the time of tasting and must therefore be omitted.
PRIMARY GRAPE VARIETY / BLEND
Most wine criticism websites allow you to search by grape variety or blend types (e.g., Bordeaux Blend, Rhone Blend, or, vaguest of all, Proprietary Blend). Because most wines are blends, it can be challenging to understand the style and character of the wine without knowing the Primary Grape, i.e., the one that makes up the majority percentage of the blend. Therefore, our filtering system always mentions the Primary Grape, followed by the qualification of whether or not it is a blend.
Wines certified as ‘organic’ or ‘biodynamic’ by one of the internationally recognized third-party organizations can be searched using our Organic and Biodynamic filters. These wines are highlighted on our website with this symbol next to the name:
Organic Grape Growing
Organic viticulture generally avoids using manufactured chemicals in the vineyard, including chemical herbicides, fertilizers, and pesticides. Instead, naturally existing/made applications such as compost are used to provide nutrients and/or pheromones to control pests. Mowing, plowing, or grazing herds of sheep can be used to manage cover crop and weed growth. The use of sulfur and copper spraying to control mildew is allowed in most countries under the rules of organic viticulture. Still, the total amount that can be applied each year is much lower than the amount permitted in conventional agriculture.
Organic winemaking precludes the use of most chemical additives; not that many are generally used in the production of wines. The most important chemical substance in winemaking is sulfur dioxide (referred to as “sulfites” on wine labels), and this is mainly used as an antioxidant to help preserve wine. Because it can be complicated to produce a stable wine of quality without sulfites, organic wines are less common than wines made using Organically Grown Grapes.
The word ‘organic’ is legally controlled and protected throughout most of the wine world but the rules and regulations are slightly different in each country. To label grapes as ‘organically grown’, a winery must obtain certification by a third-party auditing institution that is recognized within the country of production. Generally speaking, vineyards must undertake a three-year conversion period of documented practices while following the stated legal requirements before obtaining the “Organically Grown” certification. They are randomly tested to ensure compliance. Organic certifying organizations include USDA Organic, EU Organic, Ecocert, Australian Certified Organic, and BioGro NZ.
Biodynamics is a collection of farming methods that Rudolf Steiner initially conceived in 1924. In essence, these practices tend to be as philosophical as they are sustainable. Biodynamics is generally based on organic farming methods, such as banning the use of artificial chemicals. It also employs specially crafted composts and herbal infusions, known as preparations, which are applied to the vineyard following specific movements and phases of celestial bodies. Likewise, the timing of winemaking practices can be determined by astrological phases. Whether these methods contribute to wine quality is debatable, but to their credit, they are more sustainable than most conventional and even some organic viticulture practices
Major Biodynamic certifying organizations include Demeter and Biodyvin.