Pardon The Language But What The Hell Are They Talking About?
Okay, we’ve all been there (and some of us still are). You’re in a restaurant or at a party and you’re enjoying a really good wine and blissing out because of it and then someone starts talking all about the nuance of the wine using terms that you can only guess what the hell they’re talking about. Suddenly without any warning you’re pulled out of your wine induced bliss by a feeling of guilt because you don’t know the terminology associated with drinking wine. Should you even be allowed to enjoy that glass of vino? How embarrassing!
Well fear no more. We are going to learn this terminology together and furthermore I would just like to say that you can talk about wine without using this terminology. What’s really needed to talk about wine intelligently is an understanding of the qualities of a wine and then just be able to communicate those qualities in regular, good old English (or the language of your choice 🙂 ).
So here, and in the next few Wednesday posts, I will attempt to put this terminology into a language we all can understand and share.
Okay, first off when someone talks about the ‘bouquet’ of a wine they are simply talking about what the wine smells like.
When they describe the ‘bouquet’ or ‘nose’ of the wine they will use several different characteristic ‘aromas’ to describe it. Among those aromas are: Caramel, earthy, floral, fruity, herbaceous or vegetative, nutty, spicy, or woody.
Now it does get more complicated than that because each of those aromas I noted above have other more precise characteristics that help you describe exactly what you’re smelling.
So I am not going to quote Total Wine and More’s ‘Guide to Wine’ 2011 edition on these.
CARAMEL: Butterscotch, Honey, Molasses, Chocolate, Soy Sauce (For example, all of the above could be smelled independently in a glass of wine, but you could generally describe a wine as having a ‘caramel’ aroma if you detect caramel, molasses or honey in the nose). Some examples are Sauternes, California Chardonnay, and French Puligny-Montrachet.
EARTHY: Moldy, Mushroom, Dusty, Chalky, Mineral (Frequently used in describing Red Burgundy, Zinfandel or some fine examples of California Pinot Noir). Fortunately it tastes far better than the description allows. 🙂
FLORAL: Violet, Rose, Orange Blossom. Some examples are Chenin Blanc, Vouvray, and Sancerre.
FRUITY: Tree fruit, Tropical fruit, Citrus fruit, Red fruit, Dark fruits. Basically with this one when something smells fruity just simply ask yourself ‘what kind of fruit am I smelling?’ Some of the red wines that commonly display these fruity tastes are Beaujolais, Merlot, and Pinot Noir.
HERBACEOUS OR VEGETATIVE: Does it smell or taste like cut grass, bell peppers, or mint? How about olives or asparagus? Tea or tobacco? Just ask yourself ‘what does this remind me of?’ you’re probably not far off. Wines that might display these aroma characteristics are Sauvignon Blanc, Gerwurztraminer and Rieslings.
NUTTY: Walnut, Hazelnut, Almond. These aromas are often used to describe Sherries, Meursault, and Madeiras.
SPICY: Licorice, Anise, Black Pepper, and Cloves. Wines that might display these aromas are Australian Shiraz, Rhone wines, and California Zinfandels.
WOODY: Burnt (Smoky, Coffee), Resinous (Oak, Cedar, Vanilla). Good examples of this are Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
As you can see when it comes to the ‘bouquet’ and ‘aroma’ of a wine you just have to ask yourself ‘What do I smell? What am I tasting? What does this remind me of?’ If you answer those questions you’ll not only get to know the wine a little better you’ll also start to see what bouquets and aromas you’re more attracted to. Having this knowledge will help you to know what wines you like the best and why.
Also, you don’t have to be a snob when describing wines. All you have to know is what qualities you like in a wine and then communicate that to the people at the wine store or the sommelier at the restaurant. I don’t think anyone would fault you if you told the sommelier that you tend to like a wine that smells and tastes like cherries or chocolate or with a hint of almonds. If he’s a good sommelier he’ll know exactly what to get you
So that’s our education for this week folks. Join me again next Wednesday for another installment of ‘Pardon the language but what the hell are they talking about?’ Until then I’ll have another wine review on Sunday!
Posted on December 22, 2010, in Education, Wine Terms and tagged aromas, biodynamic wine, bouquet, Chianti, organic wine; 100% organic; biodynamics; Rudolf Steiner; Austrian philosopher; red wine; white wine;, pinot noir, smell, Table wine, Total Wine, Tuscany, wine terminology. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.