What does the term "sap" or "sappy" mean to you?

I see “sap” and “sappy” used in tasting notes a couple of ways, usually describing pinot noir. Does it mean ripe, sweet-tasting fruit flavors, a spicy, resiny quality, or something else?

I use the term, and usually in connection with Pinot. When I use it, I mean something along the lines of resinous pine tree sap.

Are you talking about aroma, taste, or texture? Pine sap is not something I’ve encountered in Pinot Noir, nose or palate. Pine needle/juniper berry aromas occasionally, but not pine sap.

Several wine glossaries (Wine Anorak’s is a good example - Glossary of wine terms" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; ) define ‘sappy’ as “A less extreme variant of green.”

But there does not seem to be any uniform definition. Google turned up a couple of sources that define ‘sappy’ as: “The slightly ‘stalky’ character often found in young wines (particularly pinot noir) and usually a sign of potential quality.” One source offered this: “A somewhat pejorative term meaning that it has a grassy or lightly herby taste. The reference is to tree sap and celery stalks. Young red wines have this sometimes.” Another said that ‘sappy’: “Describes wines made from under ripe grapes or those having the taste is of unripe fruit.”

I use ‘sappy’ as a synonym for ‘juicy’ - but to avoid confusion, will stick to ‘juicy’ in the future.

I use it more in the sapid context.

It means juicy for me as well but in a more youthful, acid-driven way than ‘juicy’.

It’s mouthwateringly juicy as opposed to thirst quenchingly juicy.

Perfect! Acid activates the salivary glands, so a wine with good acidity is, indeed, “mouthwateringly juicy.”

I found this description of a 2009 Brun Beaujolais blanc: “full of pure, ripe melon and apple; soft and rich; finishes simply but with sappy, juicy profusion.” Mouthwatering, indeed!

That’s the way I use it. Fresh fruit-y and juicy rather than pine-y.

Same here.

To me lack of acidity and structure = sappy


Me too.

That’s what I call ‘flabby’.

This is exactly how I view it

I have always encountered the term when a wine with an extra dimension of dense, ripe fruit is being described. Never a negative connotation, as far as I can recall, in Burghound’s or Coates’ reviews.

Pretty much what I think. Although I would add that it is a bit thick or syrupy too.

I don’t use the term “sappy” but use “mid-palate sap” to describe a combination of “grip” from the acidity and fruit intensity, primarily in Chablis and red Burgs. For example, I characterize many of Fevre’s '08 Chablis as having more “mid-palate sap” than the '07 counterparts. The '07s have a greater acid component, but the ‘08s have more acid + fruit intensity in total. I think I got this term and my interpretation of it from reading Allen Meadows’ notes.

I would agree. Either way no acid or structure like eating a jar of jelly.

Mollydooker = Sappy.


“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” ~ Through the Looking Glass, Ch. VI.

I like the connection to acidity. To my mind if you took an ordinary red and added a little cranberry juice to it, people would describe it as “sappy.”

It can be a beautiful feature of “old style” Barolo / Barbaresco and other Nebbiolo wines. And it is what gets ruined when you smear Marshmallow Fluff all over the wine by using new oak barrels.

It is also a prominent feature of the best Beaujolais. I get it sometimes in red Burg but not quite as often as in the others I mentioned.

The fact that George has an “opposite” definition reminds me a little of the word “musky” which I think hardly anyone knows how to use correctly. It often goes off in the direction either of body odor or decaying newspapers (“musty”) but that’s because of differences in olfaction between individuals, and most people’s lack of opportunity to smell actual musk. Musk has a clean sweet almost floral smell, and is like expensive soap (because expensive soap often has musk in it). But how many people mean that when they use the word?

Thanks for all the posts on this topic. Interesting how some of the suggested meanings or definitions are basically diametrically opposite. Like one person says, it is what you say it is. I think the first place I saw the term used was in Allen Meadows’ notes, so I’m especially interested in how he uses it.

From issue #1 of Burghound:

1998 La Tâche: Stunning nose of red and black fruits, oriental spices, tea and leather notes. Intensely sappy flavor with wave after wave of ever changing flavors. The personality here is edgy, cool, confident and pure with the ripe acidity framing the flavors. The Richebourg is long but the La Tâche is even longer. A great effort. (95)

I.e. exceptional youthful ripe, sweet, density and concentration. No connotation of anything “out of balance” or anything negative!!

For me it is about how it feels towards the finish and the way it sticks to my mouth. It has nothing to do with flavor.