Salt in wine? Surely not! But what are wine experts referring to when using the word 'saline' in wine tasting notes? Stephen Brook answers that question for Decanter.


Ask Decanter: Yes, you can taste salt in wine – sometimes

David Baxter, from Nottingham, asks: Recently I’ve noticed the word ‘saline’ cropping up in more tasting notes. Surely wine can’t be salty. So what are your experts referring to?

Stephen Brook, for Decanter, replies: You’re right, saline has been creeping into tasting notes. But it’s not entirely without meaning. There are white wines – from Sicily, for example – that have a salty tang which may (or may not) be related to proximity to the sea.

I think of ‘saline’ as a cousin to ‘mineral’. We think we can detect mineral tones in, say, a Mosel Riesling or a Puligny-Montrachet, and that’s not entirely fanciful either.

Similarly, salinity does often seem appropriate when describing wine.

To confuse matters further, Italian tasters also refer to sapidità (sapidity), which is dictionary-defined as having a strong, pleasant flavour, but in Italian it seems to carry overtones of salinity too.

Stephen Brook is an awarded wine writer, author and judge has been a Decanter contributing editor for 19 years.