The Language of Wine

By Fried, Eunice | Black Enterprise, February 1993 | Go to article overview
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The Language of Wine


Fried, Eunice, Black Enterprise


Wine lovers love to talk wine as well as taste it And what a language they use--winespeak, you might call it

"Nose this one. Flinty." "This one begins meaty but no finish." "It's corky." "Its flabby." "It's got breed." "I pick up apple."

Translation: To nose means to smell. Flinty is a steely aroma similar to gun flint found in some dry white wines. Meaty is a very full-bodied wine, almost chewy. Finish is aftertaste. Corked means a dirty, damp smell that a bad cork gives to a wine. Flabby is lacking in crisp acidity. Breed is a high praise for a distinguished wine. And apple means clear only to the tastebuds of the taster. Certain young white wines do indeed smell like apples, but one person's apple is another person's apricot

The smell of a wine can remind us of many things, such as fruits, flowers, herbs, spices, spring meadows, even leather. The point is each of us has a personal memory bank of aromas, and the richer the bank, the more memories we can pull from it to describe a wine.

Still, while describing what we smell and taste in a wine is not a precise science, there are prescribed steps to tasting. We taste with our senses of sight smell and taste. Sight reveals the wine's color and clarity. Smell gives the "nose" or aroma (in younger wines) or bouquet (in more mature wines). Taste tells us just that--how the wine tastes.

And, there is the wine taste's vocabulary. Body refers to the feeling of the wine's weight in the mouth; think of how a clear consomme feels compared to a cream soup. Dry means not sweet Legs (a k a tears) are the globules of wine that fall down the sides of the glass after the wine has been swirled. Tannin is an essential component of red wines, a natural preservative that helps give a wine long life. Harsh and mouth puckering in its youth, tannin softens as a wine ages.

Because wine gets its basic character from the grape, a summary of some of these grapes provides a quick lesson in the wine lexicon.

White Wines

Chardonnay: One of the finest white grapes.

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