5 Wine expressions that make you sound like a Pro
For most consumers to be able to say, and with honesty, that they “like” a wine, is a big step. Now, how to describe what that “like” is… well, that's where the challenge begins.
On the other hand, wine professionals (Winemakers, Sommeliers) seem to master a whole vocabulary rich in adjectives, without any problem, they deliver between 6 to 8 characteristics at a glance while tasting wine.
When both, consumer and professional meet, there’s often a lack of understanding on the part of the consumer of all those "expletives", when in the end we all know that wine tastes like wine, why complicate it?!
Wine tasting is often seen as something only available to gifted people, which is not true. A bit like everything else in life, it requires training and perseverance.
Knowing how to taste wines is challenging, as it’s often a comparative exercise with the wine in the next glass, or with the wine, we tasted seven months ago, so we also need to have a good memory as well.
Equally important is that we form our own opinion about wine, as well as have fun in the process.
For more than 20 years I have helped people experience more joy when drinking wine through wine tasting experiences and online wine courses.
For now, here is a list of 5 expressions that most consumers are inexperienced at using, and what they mean.
1) “This wine is chewed”
When you hear this, it means that the tannins are so strong that they completely dry your mouth, making you have to “chew” in order to create saliva and moisten your mouth. In other words, you can say that wine is astringent and that it dries out the mouth.
Tannins are a constituent of wine. Present in the stems and skins of the grapes, therefore, all wines vinified in stainless steel (reds, rosés and some whites) have tannins. If the wine ages in wood, it will have tannins too.
2) “The wine is closed”
It is said when a wine doesn't show its true potential. It will invariably be a young wine, too early to drink that needs time to evolve in the bottle.
This would lead you to ask “but the bottle is open now, what do I do?”
Well, put the wine in a decanter, give it a few turns and minutes for the oxygen to enhance the release of aromas.
In the absence of a decanter, simply change the glasses on the table for others with a wider glass and enjoy the wine after swirling it in the glass.
You’ll see that now the wine has "opened", it has more aroma, therefore flavor. And you, more pleasure in drinking it.
3) “The wine is hot”
I'm not talking about Mulled Wine. I’m talking about a wine that given its alcoholic richness you can literally smell the alcohol vapors and that is also warming to the mouth.
The alcohol level is related to the sugar (fructose, sucrose) present in the grapes the time of harvest. The sweeter the grapes, the more alcohol the wine will have.
Wines from warm regions can also give this perception in your mouth, especially if you’re not in the habit of drinking sweet drinks.
The fact that the wine has 14.5% alcohol per volume or even 15% does not mean that it will give you a feeling of heat. If it's balanced with the other components of the wine (acidity and tannins) you won't notice it.
4) “This wine is austere”
In this case, it means that the wine attacks the mouth with a lot of acidity and strong tannins. Great wines often have these characteristics when young. You’ll probably have to decant it too to appreciate it and if possible, raise the temperature to 2°C.
5) “It’s buttery”
This is a term used to describe the tasting of white wines that have undergone malolactic fermentation. Usually, they are wines vinified and/or aged in wood, but it can happen in stainless steel vats as well.
A “buttery” wine is a wine with a creamy texture that hits the tongue as if we had just eaten buttered toast.
This fermentation is actually the transformation of malic acid (pungent, bitter) into lactic acid (mild). The result is not a wine with higher alcohol content, but a reduction in the general acidity of the wine. This makes the wine less harsh on the palate. White wines gain creaminess and body.
Wine is one of those subjects that the more you learn, the clearer it becomes that you know very little. The number of varieties of wines available today has never been more diverse. So now, more than ever, we have to (myself included) maintain the practice of tasting/drinking wine on a regular basis in our lives.
And with the year 2022 starting, you have the best time to start new habits, like tasting different wines!
Here are three suggestions on how to do it by varying and broadening horizons:
By tradition, Portugal is a country whose wines are blended (various varieties), but today you can find a wide range of white, rosé and single variety reds. Venture into unknown grapes varieties such as Arinto, Fernão Pires, Touriga Nacional or Castelão!
Portugal has 28 Controlled Denominations of Origin and 14 areas for Regional wines. Once a month, drink a wine from a source that you don't often choose.
Do you have a favorite wine? Discover the Winemaker who makes it and set out to discover other wines made by the same person.
Once again, I invite you to join me in an online wine courses where we will go deep into the wine tasting.
Following the traditional tasting technique and paying attention to what you taste, after several “exercises” you’ll gain “muscle” to describe what you like in a wine and very importantly too – what you don't like.
That way you'll be able to easily describe what you want to drink, whether in a restaurant or in a wine cellar.
What other word from the wine vocabulary would you like me to explain to you?