Publisher: Tom Woll Editor: Claire Thompson Managing Editor: Jacquline A. Martin Editorial Production: David denBoer, Nighthawk Design This text is printed on acid free paper. Copyright 1993 by Dewey Markham, Jr. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved. Published simultaneously in Canada. Reproduction or translation of any part of this work beyond that permitted by Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Congress Copyright Act without permission of the copyright owner is unlawful. Requests for permission or further information should be addressed to the Permissions Department, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. it is sold with the understanding that the published is not engaged in rendering professional services. If legal, accounting, medical, psychological, or any other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. adapted from a declaration or principles of a joint committee of the american bar association and publishers. Printed in the United States of America.
Table of Contents
THE PREGAME Preface 2 Introduction 4 Why Drink Wine? 10
PEAKING THE SENSES The Taste of White Wine Red Red Wine The Smell of Wine
14 18 20
POP, FIZZ, CLINK! White Wine : Simplified Red Wine : Simplified Pink, Sweet & Bubbly
22 26 30
TALK THE TALK Wine Glasses The Wine Label Going Vintage Know the Lingo
34 36 42 50
THE HOW TO’S: Pick the Perfect Package 54 Buying Wine in a Store 62 Buying Wine in a Restaurant 68 Wine & Food 74
TIME TO CHEERS Storing Wine 76 Serving Wine 82 Selected Bibliography 89 contents
Preface First things first, why do we drink wine and why are we even talking about this in the first place? How do I learn to like something that I canâ€™t even understand? Here we will uncover some common misconceptions to help you embrace this drink of the gods...
Everyone drinks wine for a different reason. While no opinion can be wrong, some of them are a little off. Lets take a look at some peoples opinions.
Wine is one of the most elegant of human creations. It is unparalleled in enhancing the enjoyment of a fine meal, imparting a spirit or refinement to any occasion, and offering a complexity of character that is unlike that available form any other beverage. Wine is a good basic everyday drink. A glass with lunch or dinner adds a nice touch, and you don’t have to save it for any special occasion. It provides an enjoyable chance of pace from the beverages that we usually have with food. Wine is a great party drink. It tastes good, you can get it in jugs or “on tap” in a bag in a box, and it doesn’t have to cost you and arm and a leg to pour a decent glass for a party, a picnic, or any kind of get-together. These are three generally held attributes regarding wine that are actually valid. And then there’s a few, which sounds something like this:
Wine is for snobs. It’s too complicated to enjoy, it tastes funny, you have to know a bunch of rules like that type to drink with what food, and if you don’t know the rules you look like a jerk. Besides, it costs too much to get something decent, and I don’t eat fancy or have special occasions to drink it with. Gimme another soda, Harry. A valid as the first three attitudes are, this last one is so far from being reasonable that its hard to know where to begin to try and set things straight. But setting things straight is the aim of this book, and even if you find yourself more closely in line with one of the fist three attitudes, you’ll still find what’s presented here can help you gain a better understanding of just what wine appreciation is all about and how it can help you better enjoy your wine of choice, whatever it may be. This book is written with the aim of helping you become a better wine drinker, to enjoy wine regardless of what you drink and when you drink
Introduction There’s something about wine that makes perfectly intelligent, capable people doubt their capacity for sound judgement. More often than not, it isn’t acknowledged, and it may not even be given a lot of thought. But all the same, for many people the idea of choosing a wine in a store or restaurant is akin to taking the SAT. This book will help move you from a realm of intimidation to that of a well trained sommelier.
Let’s face it. This is not a matter of life of death, and 100 years from now no one is ever going to know what wine you choose. Still, there seems to be enough doubt involved in the decision to send the sales of bottled water soaring as the “smart” alternative to soda pop. Occasionally, a person will make a tentative effort to see what all the fuss is about, and will look in a book that explains what makes wine so special. Sooner or later there’s always a paragraph that reads something like this: “Wine is one of the most complex foods known to humankind. Each possesses a unique character, the result of a myriad of chemical compounds believed to number in the thousands of which scientists have succeeded in identifying only around 100, and each compound contributes something indefinable and often unforgettable to a wine’s complexity of taste and aroma.” Words like this tend to make on feel that it’s necessary to pass an entrance exam just to step foot in a wine shop. And then, to back this up, there is the popular image of the wine expert who sniffs at a glass and comes out with “A most subtle array of sensory impressions, with a thick carpet of raspberries and rose petals in the forefront, which is nicely complemented by a deeper imprint of cedar and Russian leather, all of which clearly indicate that the wine is from a good year, but nearing its peak of drinkabilty.” And so on. And the guy hasn’t even tasted the stuff yet. Well to begin with, wine is made up of a lot of complex components. But so is an automobile, yet you don’t feel the need to avoid cars and buses just because you don’t know what all those gears and pistons are doing down there beneath the hood. And then all that rigmarole about raspberry rugs and the rest can be boiled down to just two simple sentences. “I like this wine” or “I don’t like this wine”. There’s nothing particularly complicated about that, now, is there? Chances are good that you’ve already used these phrases about other things. Just change the last word and see how familiar is sounds: “I like this music”; “I don’t like this painting”; “I like this comedian” etc. “Ah, but its not so simple,” you may say. “With wine were talking about taste, and that’s a lot more subtle than the question of whether a joke is funny or if blue is an nice as red. Remember, ‘wine is one of the most
Cheers! The goal of this book is to increase your knowledge and enjoyment of this subject by presenting basic information applicable to virtually any wine you are likely to encounter, regardless of its origin or the type of grape from which it was made. By focusing on wine making principles instead of regions of production and on fundamentals of taste instead of grape varieties, the entire world of wine should become less mysterious and more pleasurable. But to understand the universal it often helps to look at the specific, so throughout the book you find special “Cheers!” Section to contain recommendations of particular types of wine that will best illustrate the topic under discussion in the accompanying text. It’s by actual tasting that you’ll come to understand such points as what is meant by a sweet or a dry wine, or how different ways of treating grapes during wine making will affect the finished product. Written explanations may make sense on their own, but a sip of wine can make their significance unforgettable. In these sections we recommend that you taste not just one, but two or more wines together. While any one of these wines will adequately illustrate the given point in question, comparing it with others of contrasting qualities will more than double your understanding. After all, how would we know what bitter was like if all we ever tasted was
the taste of
white wine How is wine made? Why are there so many flavors within one type of wine? There is a lot to consider when it comes to flavor and wine production. This chapter will enlighten you on white wineâ€™s two most basic elements: sweetness and acidity.
peaking the senses
So far we’ve spoken about the quality of wine in terms of the length of time its taste lingers in your mouth after swallowing. You could use this as the sole criterion for judging a wine, forget about going any further in this book, and still have a fairly reliable yardstick by which the quality of a wine may be judged. But there are other factors of a wines taste that should be considered as well. After all, the taste of Drano will linger in your mouth for a real long time, but I don’t think you’d consider it the perfect accompaniment with dinner for that reason. Length of taste is one aspect, but the character of that taste should also be considered. We spoke earlier long and elaborate are given when flowery language appraisals. But about white wines, to considering just of flavor.
It’s all well and good if the bulb in your bedside lamp lasts a long time, but if it is a 600watt spotlight instead of a softer, more soothing light, length becomes somewhat less important.
about all of the descriptions that evaluating wines, the and the complicated when we are talking it all comes down two basic aspects
In white wines, flavor is a balance of sweetness and acidity. Both of these are found in the grapes from which the wine is made. We all know that grapes are sweet; that’s one of the reasons they are so popular as an eating fruit. The acidity is there too, although it is not one of the first things about grapes we may normally think of. Its the acidity that gives them that pleasant tartness that we find so refreshing. The way in which the grapes are handled during wine making determines the balance of sweetness and acidity that will be evident in the finished wine. Ideally, that balance between the sugar and acid keeps the wine from being either too cloyingly sweet or too sharply tart. The basic aspects of sweetness and acidity in white wines are not absolutes, but vary in intensity depending on the type of grapes used, the manner in which they were grown and vinified, and
the taste of white wine
wine wisdom numerous other influences. Although the differences in taste are subtle and can range over an infinitely demarcated spectrum of intensity, we can distill in all down to a manageable range of five levels of sweetness and five levels of acidity. For simplicityâ€™s sake these could be labeled numerically, like the Richter scale used for measuring earthquakes, but we must never forget that there is poetry in wine. So in place of numbers 1 through 5, more descriptive terms have been assigned to these sensations. For sweetness, these five levels of intensity, from weakest to strongest, are identified as hollow, little, watery, unctuous, and heavy. For acidity, the five levels of intensity (in ascending order) are hollow, thin, meager, tart, and aggressive. Now lets lay out these two scales in order to visualize what we are talking about, arranging the sweetness scale vertically and the acidity horizontally. The midpoint of each scale represents a balance between too much and too little sweetness or acidity in a wine. You will see that on our two scales weâ€™ve drawn a line out from that point, dividing each scale in half. On the sweetness scale the area below the division contains the wines that to varying degrees are deficient in that quality; the area above the line is for those wines with a surfeit of sweetness. Similarly on the acidity scale the area to the left of the line will contain wines insufficiently acidic, while to the right will be found those wines that are overly so. Finally, lets combine the two scales. The result gives us the scale on the next page. The point in the middle where the two lines intersect represents a wine that is balanced in both sweetness and acidity; each of the four areas around it will be either weaker or stronger in these two basic characteristics. As our combining of the two scales implies, neither sweetness or acidity exists on its own in a white wine. There is an interplay between the two that produces a final sensation in the mouth that is clearly the product of both, yet is different enough to require its own descriptive term. The effect is to create something akin to the multiplication table of taste sensations on which you can easily find the appropriate name to put to the taste of any white wine.
peaking the senses
From the interplay of the five basic levels of sweetness and acidity, we get 25 terms that comprise the descriptive vocabulary for the taste of white wines. And here you have it, the source of all that talk about lively Chardonnays and flat Chablis. Depending on the effect that a given white wine produces in your mouth, you can easily come up with an appropriate description of that sensation that will be readily understood by others. Each word is quite rich in its descriptive power, without going off the deep end into the florid metaphors that you occasionally fine employed by wine writers. But lets take a closer look at the choice of words used by their positioning in the scale above.
the taste of white wine
Neil Diamond may have really been onto something when he wrote his hit song about red wine being the only cure to a broken heart. And whether that is true or not, it does provide some health benefits as discussed in this chapter.
peaking the senses
As we’ve seen, the taste of white wines is the product of an interplay between two aspects of its flavor, sweetness, and acidity. Both of these are present in red wines too, but what distinguishes the taste of the latter is the presence of a third component: tannin. What is tannin? This substance is found in the woody parts of the grapevine, as well as in the grape’s skin and pips. Most tannin makes its way into red wine during the pressing of the grapes, when the juice is allowed to remain in prolonged contact with the skin and the stalks that held the bunches of grapes together. In white wines this contact is kept to a minimum, so virtually no tannin at all is extracts by the juice. As in white wines, sweetness and acidity play much the same roles in the taste of reds, but what about tannin? Here it’s not so much a question of taste, but rather a physical sensation in which your mouth dries out and puckers up, and a certain raspiness may be felt as the wine passes along to the back of your throat. Sounds really pleasant, right? Well, before you decide to confine your drinking to whine wines, understand that depending on the way the tannin balances with the sweetness and acidity, its contribution can be not only very attractive, but may well be the element that makes a wine the object of adulation.
Red red wine you make me feel so fine, You keep me rocking all of the time!
According, we’ll start with the two basic aspects of sweetness acidity, but turning it on its side while keeping their relationship unchanging yields the scale below. Now we add the aspect of tannin, which contributes a new dimension and gives the taste of red wines a character all its own to get the scale on the next page. To underscore the difference between the tastes of red and white wines, were used a triangle for the shape of the following scale, as opposed to the square shape that we used for the scale on page 18. Here equilibrium is found in the center, where the lines of sweetness, acidity, and tannin meet. A wine whose taste of places it here has its three aspects in
red red wine
wine wisdom absolute balance. Of course, such a state in wine is the exception and not the rule; invariably, one or two of the three tastes will be more or less pronounced, and this will move the wines position away from the center to a certain degree. The farther from the central point of balance we go along any of the three lines, the stronger that aspect of the wine’s taste is. Conversely, if we follow any line toward the center and past the point of equilibrium, the weaker that aspect of a wine’s taste is. For example, if the acidity and sweetness in a whines taste are both quite pronounced but the tannin is rather weak, the position of such a wine might be found around point 1. Similarly, if the tannin and sweetness are balanced but the acidity is predominant, the wine might be positioned around point 2. The important thing to remember is this: the stronger or weaker that one or two of the taste aspects of red wine are, the father away from central equilibrium point it will be found, and the more off-balance it is said to be. Within certain limits, the “off-balance” character of a wine us nit particularly unpleasant; indeed, it might even give a certain interest to a wine. We can draw a boundary around the central point of equilibrium that will serve to delimit the acceptably off-balance wines from those that are too strong or weak in one or another aspect to be considered pleasing. What we now have is merely a drawing; to make it a figure that we can use to help zero in on a description of a red wine’s taste, we must add descriptive terms useful in defining the character of that taste. Again, there exist certain generally accepted adjectives that describe the various tastes of red wines, and we can simply plug these in to give us the next scale. Here, then, is the graphic representation of the taste of red wines that we can use to assign a descriptive term to the sensation that a given red wine produces in the mouth. But what makes this scale so interesting is that is can be used not only to help define the taste of a given wine, but also to tract its development. You see, in addition to its primary effect on the taste of a red wine, tannin is also a determining factor in its age ability - not just how long a wine will take to reach its full potential, but how good it will be once
peaking the senses
it gets there and how long it will stay that way. We spoke about why a long and happy life is desirable in a wine when we looked at acidity in white wines, and the same reasons hold true here: the longer it takes for a wine to pull its taste components into harmony, the finer the eventual taste will be. While acidity imparts (in both whites and reds) a certain longevity, it is tannin that really gives wine the ability to go the distance. This is readily seen when we compare the average lifespan of white wine with red. As an example, let’s look at Chateau Margaux, one of the finest of French wine producers; although its renown is based on its red wine, the chateau makes a white wine too. The white will tend to reach its peak at around seven to eight years of age, while it is not at all unusual for the red wine to continue maturing for decades. In a young red wine tannins can be harsh and off putting, making it difficult to drink at three years of age can be smooth and inviting at ten. The effect of time on tannin is not unlike that of a river on the stones over which it flows - the roughness is worn smooth and sharp edges are rounded off. This is literally the difference in feeling that the mouth experiences. That abrasive, raspy character of which we spoke earlier becomes a full, silky sensation in the mouth that accounts for much of the greatness that is to be found in red wines. Tannins allow a red wine to age for a long time - but if we look at it another way, red wines need a long time to age because of the tannins in them. We said earlier that this scale can be used not only to describe the taste of any red wine, but also to help us track its development. It works like this: as a red wine ages and its tannins mellow, the position at which the wine is to be found on the chart will shift vertically in a straight line. The simplest illustration would be a wine who’s acidity and sweetness are in balance, so as to position it directly on the Tannin axis. If we first encounter the wine in its early youth, we may find it “bitter” or “rough”. With time, however, the tannins will become more accessible, and the wine will be “tannic”, then “well-built” in character. Further aging will produce a wine that is “balanced” or “flowing,” which would be the optimum time for drinking. But if we allow the wine to continue aging it will descend into decrepitude as the tannins fade away altogether, becoming first “shapeless” and then finally “without backbone.” Similarly, a wine that is on the acidic side might
red red wine
red wine : simplified First things first, red wine is well…red, but why? It’s color can be derived from a vast assortment of grape varietals ranging from grapes that are reddish, deep purple, and even a beautiful blue on the color scale. These grapes give rise to a wine that is color classified with such descriptors as garnet, almost black, dark red, light red, ruby red, opaque purple, deep violet, maroon and the list goes on. It is the grape skins that are responsible for the red wine’s distinct color spectrum. There are right around 50 key red wine varietals that consistently manifest themselves in today’s worldwide wine market.
pop, fizz, clink!
Merlot is a darkly blue colored wine grape, that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. Merlot is one of the primary grapes in the Bordeaux wine where it is the most widely planted grape. Merlot is also one of the most popular red wine varietal in many markets. Flavor Description: Merlot based wines usually have a medium body with hints of berry, plum, and currant. Food Pairing: Merlot is a very versatile wine, however it’s plum and berry flavors are a delicious compliment to fish, shellfish bacon & prosciutto.
CABERNET SAUVIGNON (ca-burr-nay so-veen-yaw)
Cabernet Sauvignon, often referred to ask the “king of red wine grapes”, has the privilege of being the world’s most sought after red wine. Cabernet Sauvignon grapes tend to favor warmer climates and are often ideal for aging, with 5-10 years bring optimal for the maturation process to peak. Because Cab’s take a bit longer to reach maturation, allowing their flavors to mellow, they are an ideal candidate for blending with other grapes, primarily Merlot. This blending softens the Cabernet, adding appealing fruit tones without sacrificing its innate character. Flavor Description: Cabs range from medium to full bodied and are characterized by their high tannin content which serves to provide structure and intrigue while supporting the rich fruit characteristics. The flavor profile includes plum, cherry, blackberry, blueberry, warm spice, vanilla, tobacco and sometimes leather aromas and flavors. Food Pairing: Cabs pair well with red meats and flavorful, hearty pastas. They also compliment things with very strong distinct flavors, such as lamb, strong cheeses, and chocolate.
red wine : simplified
PINOT NOIR (pee-know na-warh) Pinot Noir is Burgundy’s most famous Noble grape. Known and loved as “Red Burgundy” in much of the world, Pinot Noir can be among the most elegant wines coming out of France. Today, Pinot Noir is planted in regions around the world including: Oregon, California, New Zealand, Australia, Germany and Italy. It is a fickle grape that demands optimum growing conditions, opting for warm days consistently supported by cool evenings. Flavor Description: It’s flavors are reminiscent of sweet red berries, plums, tomatoes, cherries and at times a notable earthy or wood-like flavor, depending on specific growing conditions. Food Pairing: Pinot Noir is well-suited to pair with poultry, beef, fish, ham, lamb and pork. It will play well with creamy sauces, spicy seasonings and may just be one of the world’s most versatile food wines.
ZINFANDEL (zin-fan-dell) White Zinfandel wine is made from the red Zinfandel grape, but the grape skins are quickly removed after they are crushed so there is significantly less contact time with the heavily pigmented red grape skin, resulting in a pink/rose colored wine, instead of a deep red wine. Zinfandel, meaning the red wine, is known for its rich, dark color scheme, medium to high tannin levels and a higher alcohol content. Flavor Description: The Zinfandel feature flavors include: raspberry, blackberry, cherry, plums, raisins, spice and blackpepper all wrapped around various intensities of oak. Food Pairing: White Zinfandel pairs well with a massive variety of foods, ranging from Cajun fare to Asian fare, from BBQ chicken to heavy-duty seafood entrees.
MALBEC (mal-bek) Originating from the Bordeaux region of France, this grape is among the “big six” for red wine grapes. However, with the exception of Cahors, its fame and fortune in France often end there, as Malbec is generally a grape used for blending, with very little vine being devoted to its improvement or success. The story in Argentina is quite the opposite. Malbec has found both fame and glory in the sundrenched climate of Argentina. This is Argentina’s signature grape and it is quickly making a new name for itself with red winel overs. Flavor Description: Malbec is typically a medium to full-bodied red wine. Ripe fruit flavors of plums and blackberry give it a jammy characteristic. The tannins are typically a bit tight and the earthy, wood-like appeal makes for a fairly rustic, yet versatile wine. Food Pairing: Malbecs are delicious with red meat but can stand up to spicy Mexican, Cajun, Indian or Italian fare. Consider giving Malbec a go with barbecue, chili and sausage.
SHIRAZ (sah-ra or shi-raz) Made from the Syrah grape, Shiraz is touted as Australia’s spicy, big-hitting red wine. The Barossa and Hunter Valleys along with McLaren Vale are Australia’s dominating Shiraz growing regions. As for the grape, it is a deep-purple color and produces medium to full-bodied wines. Flavor Description: Shiraz wines contain flavors & aromas of wild black fruit (black currant) with overtones of black pepper & roasting meat. Food Pairing: Rich meats (steak, beef, wild game, stew, etc.)
The red and white table wines we have been discussing comprise about 90 percent of the average wine drinker’s consumption. Now we’ll look at three types of wine that make up the other 10 percent...
pop, fizz, clink!
rosĂŠ wines Rose wines are made from red wine grapes, but are more like white wines in there character. Still, they are different enough to be neither one nor the other and are considered a distinct type of wine. Roses are distinguished primarily by their color, which can range over a variety of shades of pink. This color is not the result of blending red and white wines (there is one significant exception that we will discuss shortly); in general, rose wines are made by allowing the colorless juice from red grapes to remain in contact with the grape skins for a brief period after pressing. As we saw in our discussion of how red wine is made, the pressed juice takes on color and tannin from the skins as they macerate together. But unlike red wines, where the skins can remain in contact with the juice for periods of weeks, rose wines are made by draining away the juice after a day or two of contact. In such a limited time the juice is able to extract only a small amount of color and practically no tannin, making it more like a white wine in character. When speaking of the taste of roses, it is the white wine vocabulary that is used, although their aromas will often have more in common with those red wines. The depth of color in a rose wine depends on the type of grapes used and how long the skins remained in contact with the pressed juice; it is not an index of a wineâ€™s quality.
pink, sweet & bubbly
dessert wines A desert wine is one that is potent, sweet, and full of flavor. It is the wineâ€™s sweetness that makes it the prefect complement to a dessert. In general, dessert wines are thicker, richer, and sweeter than table wines. The grapes are picked late in the harvest to preserve residual sugars. They come in small bottles and are served in tiny glasses. An average pour is 2 ounces. Like dinner wines, white dessert wines are generally served chilled. Red dessert wine are served at room temperature or slightly chilled. Dessert wines are especially good with fresh bakery sweets and fruits. It is best to save heavier tastes for winter and lighter tastes for summer. These wines contain flavors like peach, almond, oak, and herbs. Adding them to a sweet cream or paste dessert always creates a wonderful combination. Examples include fortified wines like port and sherry, and late harvest wines, which originated from grapes that have shriveled a bit, concentrating their sweetness. As a rule of thumb, a dessert wine should always be sweeter than the dessert it accompanies.
sparkling wines “Come quickly, I am tasting stars,” Dom Perignon’s famous quote after his first taste of Champagne, and a fairly apt description of what a good Champagne or sparkling wine experience should offer. Champagne and other sparkling wines are truly a category of wine and it are typically derived from a blend of grapes such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier. The Champagne we know and love comes exclusively from the Champagne region of France, and claims the honor of being the most famous of the sparkling wines. Technically, it is the only sparkling wine that may be referred to as “Champagne.” Bubbly from all other regions in the world are simply referred to as “sparkling wine.” Sparkling wines and Champagnes are categorized as Extra Brut, Brut (pronounced “broot”), Extra dry, Sec and Demi-sec depending on their sugar levels. These classifications can be somewhat confusing, but keep in mind, that in wine terms “dry” is the opposite of “sweet.”
The traditionally proper way to drink from a wine glass, especially when drinking white or otherwise chilled wine, is to grasp it by the stem. The most commonly accepted reasoning for this is to avoid fingerprints on the bowl and to prevent the temperature of the wine from being affected by body heat. Due to the variety of contemporary stem ware, selecting the perfect glass for your gathering can be difficult. See the inside of this page for our stem ware secrets...
talk the talk
Wine glasses vary enormously. However, there are basic differences that are helpful to know when selecting the perfect stem ware for your gathering. Red wine glasses are characterized by a rounder/wider bowl which increases the rate of oxidation and alters the flavor and aroma of the wine. With white wines, oxidation is less desirable because it alters the nuances of the wine. A smaller mouth opening is preferred to preserve the fresh, clean flavor.
bordeaux glass Tall with broad bowl. Intended for Cabernet Sauvignon & Shiraz. Full bodied wines such as these need a glass that directs the wine toward the back of the mouth.
burgundy glass Broader than the bordeaux glass. Bigger bowl to accumulate aromas of more delicate wines, such as a Pinot Noir. This glass is designed to direct the wine toward the tip of the tongue.
Wide bowl narrow mou Designed fo port wines aroma trap the glass wh
with more uth opening. or sherry and to keep the pped within hile swirling.
white wine glass Designed for fruity & light wines such as the Chardonnay and Riesling. The shape of the glass is designed to keep the flavors concentrated within the glass.
champagne flute A narrow wine glass with a long stem. Tall narrow design keeps oxygen from contacting the surface of the liquid, thus keeping is sparkling for longer.
Aggressive A wine with harsh and pronounced flavors. The opposite of a wine described as “smooth” or “soft”.
Aroma The smell of a wine. The term is generally applied to younger wines, while the term bouquet is reserved for more aged wines.
Austere A wine that is dominated by harsh acidity or tannin and is lacking the fruit needed to balance those components.
Body The sense of alcohol in the wine and the sense of feeling in the mouth
Buttery A wine that has gone through malolactic fermentation and has a rich, creamy mouth feel with flavors reminiscent of butter.
Cassis The French term for the flavors associated with black currant. In wine tasting, the use of cassis over black currant typically denotes a more concentrated, richer flavor.
Cedar wood A collective term used to describe the woodsy aroma of a wine that has been treated with oak.
Chocolaty A term most often used of rich red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot noir that describes the flavors and mouth feel associated with chocolate--typically dark.
Closed A wine that is not very aromatic.
talk the talk
Now, we may have taught you to walk the walk, but can you talk the talk? Check out our guide to the most important words to know when purchasing wine or speaking about it with the sommelier.
know the lingo
Depth A term used to denote a wine with several layers of flavor. An aspect of complexity.
Earthy A wine with aromas and flavor reminiscent of earth, such as forest floor or mushrooms. It can also refer to the drying impression felt on the palate caused by high levels of geosmin that occur naturally in grapes.
A wine that is full in body and has a sense of viscosity.
Finish The sense and perception of the wine after swallowing.
Jammy A wine that is rich in fruit but maybe lacking in tannins.
Leathery A red wine high in tannins, with a thick and soft taste.
Legs The tracks of liquid that cling to the sides of a glass after the contents have been swirled. Often said to be related to the alcohol or glycerol content of a wine. Also called tears.
Meaty A wine with a rich, full body that gives the drinker the impression of being able to â€œchewâ€? it.
Midpalate A tasting term for the feel and taste of a wine when held in the mouth.
Musky Can be used in both a positive and negative connotation relating to the earthy musk aroma in the wine. Typically positive in relation to wines from the Muscat grape family.
Nose A tasting term for the aroma, smell or bouquet of a wine.
Oaky A wine with a noticeable perception of the effects of oak. This can include the sense of vanilla, sweet spices like nutmeg, a creamy body and a smoky or toasted flavor.
Palate A tasting term for the feel and taste of a wine in the mouth.
Polished A wine that is very smooth to drink, with no roughness in texture and mouthfeel. It is also well balanced.
Short A wine with well develop aromas and mouthfeel but has a finish that is little to non-existent due to the fruit quickly disappearing after swallowing.
Spicy A wine with aromas and flavors reminiscent of various spices such as black pepper and cinnamon. While this can be a characteristic of the grape varietal, many spicy notes are imparted from oak influences.
Undertone The more subtle nuances, aromas and flavors of wine.
Unoaked Also known as unwooded, refers to wines that have been matured without contact with wood/oak such as in aging barrels.
Zesty A wine with noticeable acidity and usually citrus notes.
Zippy A wine with noticeable acidity that is balanced with enough fruit structure so as to not taste overly acidic.