Yes, you can taste salt in wine – ask Decanter

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.