Friday, December 16, 2005

Wine Lingo Part One

The language of wine can be intimidating or seem plain crazy. Can you imagine a grassy or plasticy wine? Well, at least oaky, spicy and fruity sound normal. Getting used to the unique ways to describe wine can be fun, especially since you have to drink some wine during the learning process. Just let your taste buds and your nose guide the way as you try to describe what’s in your glass.

By learning the lingo, you’ll be able to share your tasting experiences and discover what wines you prefer. Taking the time to really taste wines slows us down and teaches us wine appreciation.

I recently had a wine tasting and one guest asked how he could relay that his wine smelled like fresh baked bread. I said to say just that—say whatever comes to mind and don’t worry about trying to make it sound like the typical wine jargon.

Are you ready? Take it slow and start with swirling your glass to release the aromas of the wine. Next, take a few good sniffs and try to determine what you smell.

Now for the first sip (or slurp if you want the wine to get to all your taste buds). Are your taste buds in shock? Horribly undecided? Usually at least three sips help you determine whether you like the wine. Several sips also help clarify the flavours you experience. Personally, I normally find the first sip to be a useless judge of character; my palate seems to be adjusting to the new taste.

In between wines eat some bread or crackers to cleanse your palate. Also, rinse your glass so you don’t have residual wine interfering with your new pour. It’s also good to start with light whites, then medium, then big and rich. After the whites, go to reds and go from light-bodied to full-bodied. Always, as with anything, save the best for last: the dessert, sparkling and ice wines. Oh, and never cup the wineglass, but hold it by the stem. Wine, unlike brandy, won’t benefit by being warmed by your hands.

For more info about the language of wine check out the article Talking About Wine, which includes a few common terms.

Are you really serious about learning about the fine art of tasting? Read Thomas Matthews 10-page article The ABC’s of Wine Tasting.