Vino 101: Wine Tasting Tips, Part 2

28 Feb

Still ticked off about the spit bucket being your new BFF? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, take a look-sie at Wine Tasting Tips, Part 1 for the first in this two-chapter primer on how have a fabuloso wine tasting experience.

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So now that you know about reds before whites, the five S’s, and the infamous dump bucket rule, here are three more tips to make your next winery-hopping weekend a snob-free breeze:

4. Be vino-lingual. Consider the Wine Snob, that pompous dork (or dorkita) whose contrived geek-speak upon taking a sip of Chateau-de-Je-Ne-Sais-Pas makes me want to douse their ecstatic rapture with the contents of a dump bucket. If you remember anything from reading this blog, it’s this: Don’t. Let. The. Big. Words. Scare. You.  Now that we’ve got that straight, here are some basic wine-tasting terms you may hear:

Astringent. A puckering sensation caused by a wine’s tannins (see below)

Bouquet. Not quite the same thing as “aroma,” “bouquet” refers the smells a wine develops as it ages in the bottle

Complex. A wine that displays various characteristics, such as fruit, earth, acidity, floral aromas, etc. Usually a mark of quality.

Dry. The opposite of sweet

Earthy. Your tío Pedro may have an earthy sense of humor (i.e. raunchy). In wine, earthiness is like the smell of a garden after it rains.

Finish. What happens after you’ve taken a sip of wine. Think about how long the flavors linger, and whether the wine has a kick or leaves a smooth sensation.

Fruit forward. A wine in which fruity aromas and flavors are dominant

Full-bodied. A wine with high alcohol or a heavier feel on the palate

Jammy. The taste of ripe, almost preserved fruit. Usually an indicator that the wine is made from grapes grown in a hot climate.

Minerally. The taste and smell of gravel, chalk, wet stones, granite. Some French and Spanish wines are prized for their minerality.

Mouthfeel. A wine’s texture. Think silky, velvety, soft, mellow, supple, coarse, rustic, etc.

Residual sugar. The sugar left over in a wine after fermentation

Tannic. Tannins are natural compounds in grape skins and seeds. They also can be found in the wood from barrels used for aging wine. Heavily tannic wines leave an astringent, puckering sensation in the mouth.

Terroir.  The influence of climate, weather, soil and geology on a grapevine. Can also be used to describe the earthy aromas and flavors of a wine.

Well-balanced. A wine in which acidity, tannins, fruit and alcohol are evenly present.

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5. Food sold separately–somewhere else. A tasting room is simply that – a space for tasting wine, and not a café or wine bar. On occasion, a winery may serve water crackers, but these are more a kind gesture than a snack. If your wine tasting sojourn spans the lunch hour, you may want to pack some sandwiches and fruit (or any portable, fuss-free food you may like) and have a picnic in between tastings. Most wineries allow visitors to bring food and eat in designated outdoor areas.

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6. Save dessert for last. You may see dessert wines being offered on tasting room wine lists. Going back to the picnic for a minute, you wouldn’t eat the cupcakes before the turkey and brie baguette, would you? For some of the same reasons, you should taste the dessert wine last. Dessert wines, as you may recall from previous posts, are often honey-sweet and heavier on the palate. If you start with a late-harvest or dessert wine, any dry, lighter-bodied wines you taste after that will seem watered down and flat.

Now go forth and taste wine, chicas y chicos, and let me know how you fare. ¡Salud!

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6 Responses to “Vino 101: Wine Tasting Tips, Part 2”

  1. Divina February 28, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    LOVE it! Thank you for the info and laugh. I have been to a couple wine tastings and cannot understand why we cannot just enjoy the wine without the attitude.

    • Pamela February 28, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

      So true, Divina! Thanks for reading (and laughing!). Wine tasting is supposed to be fun, not stuffy and pompous.

  2. Monica March 1, 2013 at 6:38 am #

    New vocabulary for me! Thank you!

    • Pamela March 1, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

      So happy to hear you learned something new, Monica! Cheers!

  3. Whine And Cheers For Wine March 8, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    Thank you for the refresher course. Well done!

    • Pamela March 13, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

      Gracias, Ernesto! And thanks so much for reading. Salud!

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