What is a "polished" wine

How do you define “polished”? I have seen some use this negatively, as if a wine is over-extracted, over-oaked. I have some use this as a kiss of oak that makes a wine smoother, perhaps creamier, in a neutral to positive manner. I have heard others still use it to define a wine with clear, crystalline fruit in a positive manner. I think some others may refer to it in terms of balance, with a little more tannin and creaminess coming from the oak treatment, without going overboard.

So what does polished mean to you? Refers to an oak treatment or something else?

I always associate it with filtering and fining, just me maybe.

I’ve always used/understood the term to mean a modern and rounded version of whatever varietal it is rather than a more terroir-driven/slightly rustic version of the same grape. Curious to see how others use this term as well.

As you’ll see, it means different things to different people. I’ve never used it.

Don’t look for science or even any accuracy when you read these kinds of words. They’re just impressions of someone who happens to be writing at the time, often as not used without much thought. It’s not like people who write tasting notes spend much time seeking le mot juste. BTW - take a look at the bingo card thread if you really want to understand tasting notes!

Although I use the term negatively and I also don’t like either oak or overextraction, those are not the features I associate with the term.I usually mean a wine that tastes smoothed out, with glossy tannins, low acid and a rounded feel so that it can be drunk young easily. I am not knowledgeable enough to know what techniques lead to this effect, though I am aware of some that have been pointed to.

Bingo…I think Greg nailed it here. It’s sort of an impression you have of the wine. I use it occasionally w/o much thought and, to me,
it’s a positive term.
Think of it like looking at three different coffee tables: one made by an Ozark hillbilly & sort of rustic looking. Another made by IKEA and sorta industrial
looking. And one made by a master/artisinal woodwooker. The latter one would be “polished”. You get the idea.

No hard edges-usually in connotation to tannin in grape skin and oak barrel.

This. Also lacks character of the region/grape

And this thread goes to show how we truly and honestly do not use ‘objective’ language when discussing wines whatsoever.

I really think that this has as much to do with ‘context’ as anything else, Yep, I would agree that the first thing that pops into my head would be ‘without harsh edges of any kind’ but I would not imply anything negative about that whatsoever - and I certainly can’t understand how that term out of context would make someone believe ‘lacking character’ or ‘low acid’ or anything else. Can a rustic Loire red be polished - of course it can - to whomever is drinking it - relative to a ‘non-polished’ Loire red that may be a lot rougher around the edges.

Getting back to the OP, you can use this term to reflect every aspect of a wine if you’d like - from oak to acid to tannins to bitterness to sweetness to . . . .


These are the ways I’d use it, though for me it doesn’t necessarily have a strongly negative connotation. I might use it even for a wine that showed character if it was very well balanced and showed finesse. I would not use it for a wine that was over-extracted, over-oaked.

I don’t use the term myself for whatever reason, but I do get this subtext when I read notes about wines I’ve never tried. When I’m trying to make a decision as to whether I want to take a flyer on a particular wine if “polished” is in a review or TN about it my interest drops for the reasons above, most strongly with Syrahs. All things equal I prefer as light a hand as possible in the cellar.

I use the term to describe a wine that is harmonious. Forming a pleasing or consistent whole. No harsh tannin, good fruit. Most recently an 83 Chateau Palmer fit that polished note.

Thought provoking question.

Some things I like polished: a just-bought surfboard, a wedding ring, concise prose (think Didion or Fitzgerald)

Others I do not: sales executives, guitar solos, hipster restaurants (Upon being handed a menu: “Are you familiar with our dining concept?”)

I put wine in the latter category for some reason. To me, a polished wine implies something manufactured or a quality of trying too hard to impress.

Smoothing out some or all of the rough edges for sure.

Problem is, as pointed out above. over-polished constitutes a loss of terroir, freshness, etc.

Like with perceived sweetness, acidity, or tannin everyone is going to have their preference or range of tolerance. Which is a big support for the “points don’t matter” argument.

This actually came up when Shan and I were discussing Heitz-Lochardet, and I used it an honest, but positive way as I like the wines and appreciate the fact that you can drink them young, but they’re definitely not overly polished for me. If they were I’d say so in the review. Smart style for a newer producer anyway…if they’re not accessible young, tough to sell the wine.

These are interesting observations. I’m not too keen on polished syrahs. I prefer something with a bit of rustic edge, without the corners sanded off. (For example, Robert Michel’s Cornases always struck me as being a little too polished, though they were luscious. In more literal terms, the tannins were awfully soft and the wines didn’t seem to have the acid I was looking for.)

On the other hand, Palmer seems like a wine where polish is a good thing. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the '83, but I remember how creamy and – well – polished it was young.

For me, as I use the term, it’s a round textured wine with no hard edges, obvious flaws or dryness in the finish. Polished is in the fruit and tannins, not the oak. It’s a positive term.

Jeff – I agree with you when it comes to top Bordeaux like Palmer – I think of “polished” is generally a good thing.

But can you see how it might be at least somewhat negative with other kinds of wines?

Positive: silken, seamless, no hard edges
Negative: buffed clean to a high sheen, robbed of any distinguishing character

Take your pick; I’ve seen both. We had a hell of a time with"linear" too

Maybe we can use polished as a positive and ‘overly polished’ as a negative?

Thanks for the notes. Is it worth starting a new sticky thread of master words/definitions to add some consistency to definitions? I’m keen to have folks define “glossy” next [scratch.gif]