Wanna Be a Wine Geek? Say This, Not That

We have all seen the memes on social media...
If you're one of my friends, you've probably tagged me in this to imply I'm the annoying person on the left (thanks guys!). But I believe that all wine drinkers want to know a few, simple ways to talk about wine, or more accurately, how NOT to talk about wine. Would you really be reading this blog otherwise? Below, I've outlined quick tips for describing wine based on common mistakes.

Better Ways to Talk About Wine

The Sweet vs. Fruity Conundrum

What you say: "This white wine is too sweet."
What you mean: "This white wine is fruit-forward."

Apparently there's a myth out there that all white wines have residual sugar. I have heard many, many (seriously TOO many) bold red wine drinkers tell me that they don't like white wine en masse because it's sweet. And they "don't drink sweet wine" (although, they should). I wish I was talking about Beerenauslese Riesling but this tip pertains to dry still whites. 
Residual sugar (n.): Natural grape sugars leftover after fermentation. Referred to as "RS". Found in off-dry wines, dessert wines, and some mass-produced wines, like Apothic Wines (including the Dark blend).
While not all white wines are fruit-forward, more often than not the "sweetness" they are describing in dry whites is actually fruit. The pronounced fruit throws us off because we equate fruit with sweetness. It's hard to imagine fruits' tastes without their sugar content but it's fun to try! Next time you sample a white wine, ask yourself: "Am I tasting sugar or am I tasting a fruit?" This holds true for light, fruity reds, too.

The Dry vs. Tannin Dilemma

What you say: "This bold red wine is too dry."
What you mean: "This bold red wine is high tannin."

"Dry" is one of the most misused wine terms out there. When describing wine, "dry" means there is undetectable amount of residual sugar left in the wine. The vast majority of quality, still reds and whites are dry. Many times people blurt out "dry" when they are actually reacting to the drying feeling of tannin, i.e. a texture not a taste.
Tannin (n.): Astringent, polyphenolic biomolecule that binds to and precipitates proteins, like those found in your mouth.
Tannin comes from grape skins, seeds, and oak barrels. It is practically non-existent in white wines but can be found in red, orange, and rosé wines. When you have a drying, astringent sensation in your mouth, you're experiencing tannin. People often compare it to black tea or dark chocolate. Many wines are both dry and tannic, so feel free to use both descriptors! Just remember that "dry" is a taste and "tannin" is astringency.
TIP: Try using multiple descriptors for a single wine. That Pinot Noir you're holding might be fruity, dry, medium acid, medium tannin, and medium body.
 The Taste vs. Body Quandary

What you say: "This wine is like water."
What you mean: "This wine is light-bodied."

There are plenty of crappy, flabby wines that lack acid, fruit, and body, and genuinely taste like water. But I'm talking about wines that pack a flavor punch but have the texture of skin milk.
Body (n.): The weightiness and and overall feel of a wine. It ranges from low to medium to full. Often compared to skim milk, 2% milk, or whole milk.
Light-bodied wines are delicate and crisp thanks to their high acid and low tannin. You can find light-bodied wines across the spectrum, including the Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio duo. Their light and airy mouthfeel may stand out to tannic red wine drinkers in particular. Before you describe something as water, determine if it really tastes like such or if it just has a light body!

He's not wrong!

Have questions on how to describe wine? Get in touch with me—I'm happy to help!

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