You’ve probably heard the word “crisp” uttered by the puckered lips of one of your wino friends, but what actually is a crisp wine and what makes it crisp in the first place? Let us demystify this often-used, confusing term.
The word “crisp” is exclusively used to describe white wines and is a reference to both a wine’s acidity as well as its dry — as in not sweet — characteristics. A wine is crisp when there is a good amount of acidity present that gives you a taste sensation similar to fresh squeezed lemonade, combined with an absence of sugar or strong fruit flavors. For these wines, the acidity and dryness are playing the major roles in terms of taste.
Crisp wines are perfect for sipping on a porch while lounging in the sunshine, or at your next backyard barbeque. A crisp wine should cleanse and awaken your palate, as opposed to a wine that saps the moisture from your mouth. It should taste refreshing and is the perfect wine to serve cold on a hot day.
These are wines that are best served young; they aren’t made for much aging, as the best grapes for these bottles are picked when they’re still not fully ripe, resulting in lots of acidity without a ton of sugar. This lack of high sugar also means these wines are low in alcohol, making them insanely drinkable. Try to drink them in their most current vintage because that’s when they’re freshest.
You’ll find crisp wines whenever you pop a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Assyrtiko, Albariño, Torrontes and even young Riesling. Some people try to claim that crisp wines aren’t very interesting, simply labeling them as “basic” quaffable wines. That simply isn’t true, though it’s an opinion that continually gets reinforced by snobby wine types. In fact, crisp wines can be excellent for pairing with food, especially when that food comes from the sea.