How to talk about wine
WINE IS LIKE BOTTLED POETRY NOT LIKE A POETRY CLASS
Robert Louis Stevensen said “wine is bottled poetry”. By that he undoubtedly intended to evoke wine’s depth, complexity, and power to inspire rather than to suggest the tedium of an English-lit lecture on the presence of meter in Plutarch or the nervous rash you developed when you got called on to read your “Who I Am” haiku to your third grade class.
WHO I AM
Fruit of the pure earth.
Bacchus in a bottle born.
True liquid magic.
The Vocabulary of Wine
Its true, attempting to master the vocabulary of wine may leave you feeling like you’re at the podium stuttering out the iambic equivalent of a bottle of Boone’s Farm Fuzzy Navel. But do not despair. With the artful application of a little wine lingo you’ll easily begin to translate the sublime character of that newly discovered, abundantly complex New Zealand pinot noir… the one with the lushly aromatic nose and delightfully long finish.
IS THAT A NEW WILCO TUNE OR AN EARLY CRUSH GARAGISTE?
Perhaps you’re new to wine. Or maybe just newly aware that people have been having obviously fascinating conversations about wine all around you while leaving you feeling like you’re trying to decipher a typically inscrutable Jeff Tweedy lyric. You know they’re saying something interesting and meaningful but you’re just not sure what. Fortunately, all you need to talk authoritatively about wine is some universally recognized vocabulary, and the will to wax poetic about your experience with the ancient beverage contemporary chanteuse Lana Del Rey calls “Strawberries cherries and an angel's kiss in spring” in her cover of the Lee Hazelwood classic.
CRITICAL WINE LINGO
They are countless but here are three workhorse descriptors to rely on:
COMPLEXITY: A complex wine presents a multi-dimensional flavor and aroma palette. That is, its character and taste changes subtly from mouth to swallow. “Complexity” is the big gun in your wine descriptor arsenal. Make it your go to when you like a wine because everybody agrees it’s a very good thing, maybe the best thing, but nobody really agrees on what exactly it means.
Nose or bouquet refers to the aromatic properties of the wine. What non wine drinkers would call “how it smells”. Be careful though, terms you would find less than stimulating if said about your partner’s nose may reflect characteristics that describe a wine style you find very attractive. Like big and dirty, thick and meaty for instance.
Finish is the lingering sensation and taste of the wine after swallowing. Usually the longer the finish the better. The tastes of a complex, interesting wine will linger pleasantly in your mouth. But if you hear something like “Whoa, I thought the aggressive acidic finish took longer to die than Leonardo Di Caprio in The Titanic”, consider uncorking an alternative vintage.
ANY TWO TERMS WILL DO
And there you have it. A neophytes sampler of wine terms. Simply use any two out of three in any combination and you're guaranteed to impress. Bonus points if you can get all three into the same sentence. Use the comments to let us know what you came up with.