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Winos fight back with words

Wine is one of those many things that has developed a vocabulary of its very own.

I firmly believe that much of this specialized vocabulary is used to intimidate people or to let it be known that the user is well versed in the world of wine.

Many of the terms do however allow one the express their perceptions of a wine by personifying it or relating it to something seemingly abstract. For example, one can describe a wine as loud or bombastic. This personification of a wine can actually be linked to tangible characteristics in a wine. Often times wines described this way are known to be higher in alcohol fruity to the degree that one can smell it inches from the glass. If you want to know what I am talking about try the 2005 Ridge Paso Robles Zin ($28).

I would love to share with you a few of these pieces of vocabulary that have allowed me to express myself better when describing a wine.

To me the most fun words are the ones the offer a wine life. Reserved for only my favorite wines I use words like seductive or curious. These describe a wine that does not give itself to you all at once.

One that as you drink through the bottle it reveals delicately one piece of its personality at a time and by the end of the bottle you still do not know if you ever really understood it. The greatest wines of Alsace always speak this way to me and more so as they reach maturity.

The 2004 Zindt Humbrecht Gewerztraminer always does it to me ($40). I also like to use the words fun and charming. These words allow me to discuss a wine that is probably not very old, made in maybe only steel tanks, and is well made enough that it is smooth and fruity. Great young Tempranillo-based wines often referred to as joven wines from Spain are made in this style and can really embody the idea of fun in a wine.

The vocabulary can be turned the other way of course and used scathingly to describe wines of lesser nature. For example, the term despicable when referencing a wine means not only a wine that tastes bad but also one that is made with such little attention to quality that it is a sin for it to bear the name wine. This is often times due to things like higher yield, poor grape selection, and unsanitary winemaking processes. You will know these wines when you taste them. Whereas insipid can be used to describe a wine that is just so dull that one can’t really find a reason outside of the alcohol to drink it. One that is so predictable and boring that it is best reduced into some sauce for a dish that you don’t really care about.

Using creative vocabulary for wine is always a great way to really get more out of the experience and enjoy a wine’s nuances with friends. To those that think it is snooty, they can all go and drink some insipid, muted, backward wine of contrived nature.


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