Wine Snob 101: Ten Wine Terms That May Get You a Beat-Down   Leave a comment

So you wanna impress that young lady on your first match.com date by showing off your knowledge of fermented grape juice? 

Seriously?  OK, got it.  Like the guys from Corporate Headquarters always say: “I’m here to help.”  Translation: I’ll give you the 4-1-1 but after that you’re on your own, dude.   

Let’s start with how we talk about wine.  It’s all about the adjectives.  Personally, I have no problem with describing flavors in wines using terms like vanilla, blueberries, blackberries, chocolate, citrus, cherries as well as other commonly understood aromas like earth, cedar and barnyard.  I just wish some reviewers didn’t use terms that border on the metaphysical, incomprehensible or ridiculous.

Everyone’s taste buds are unique and aroma and taste preferences are driven by personal experience, cultural factors (how else to explain creamed herring, fried pickles and gefilte fish?), physiology (women have more sensitive palates than men– yeah, I read that somewhere), etc.  So if you decide to use any of the following terms, don’t blame me if you don’t get that good night kiss at the end of your internet date.  And definitely, don’t call if some guy at the bar, named Rocco, decides to use your head as a footstool.

Black Jelly.  Yeah, somebody actually used this one.  A Wine Enthusiast Review of Château La Conseillante Pomerol 2006: “A wonderfully firm wine, which balances extraction with pure sweet fruit. It moves comfortably within its tannic structure, the ripe Merlot allowed plenty of play to show off its black jelly and plum flavors.” 

Would it hurt you to say licorice (if that’s what this means)?  Perhaps it would hurt, but not as much as those hand cuffs, I’ll bet.  And just try to say “black jelly” in public without getting beat up.  I dare you.

Hedonistic.  I still can’t completely wrap my mind around what Robert Parker means when he describes a wine as “hedonistic” or “pure hedonism”.  A hedonist is a person that holds that pleasure is the greatest good.  So a hedonistic wine is a pleasurable wine?  That is pretty meaningless– I find many wines to be pleasurable.  But it seems to me that when RP uses the term, he has something more specific in mind.  It seems to me that he means a big wine, with higher concentration, higher alcohol, etc.  Though I enjoy these, they do not bring me the greatest pleasure. 

Pencil Shavings.  You can smell them.  But you better not be tasting them. 

“Yeah, I get pencil shavings” 

Ticonderoga No. 2.

Saddle Leather.  Smell saddle leather?  Taste saddle leather?  The last time I was in a saddle, I had no desire to take a sniff of the thing.  And I’m not about to start.

I’m having a pretty nasty City Slickers moment here.   You know what I’m taking about.

That just sucks all of the joy out of drinking those classic Spanish Gran Reservas. 

Silky.  Silky is what good pinot noir feels like in the mouth– think Victoria’s Secret, Hermes neckwear, most anything from Domaine Serene.  Think of wines that dance across the tongue with light footsteps leaving luscious flavors in their wake. 

Silky has character.  Silky seduces.  Silky might get you into the End Zone.

Silky keeps you coming back for more.  Just..um… lose the riding crop, OK?

Smooth.  Or more accurately, “smoooooth”.  And when you say this, make sure to half-shut your eyes almost like you’re having a religious vision or are being possessed or something.  I hear people use this term and the first thing I think of is cheap California Merlot.  But these are the same people who won’t “drink any f*****g merlot”.   

What does smooth do?  It brushes the lint from your shoulder and keeps you wrinkle-free.  To me, it sounds like another way of saying “boring”.  The one advantage that you have with this adjective is that if you do decide to use it in public, you will likely get a bunch of folks around you nodding in agreement.

Seductive.  Another example: “Antinori’s 2007 Tignanello is wonderfully ripe and seductive in its dark cherries, flowers, spices, tobacco, sage, cedar, mint and minerals.” 

Sorry, dude, people are seductive.  Dark cherries, by themselves, not so much.  Dark cherries in Ms. R’s hands, different story.  Cherries in Ms. R’s hands after drinking a bottle of Antinori’s 2007 Tignanello?  Unforgettably Seductive.  I think I hear some Funky Music– do you Roger that, White Boy?

Tar. I always thought that tar (in combination with a good measure of feathers) was only good for expressing displeasure with one’s elected representatives and other undesirables. 

Apparently not.  While I don’t mind a certain earthiness in some of the wines I drink, I don’t immediately think of tar as being a component of the aroma/flavor profile of any wine.

Spice Box.   What kind of spices do you really mean?  

Indian?  French?  Chinese?

Perhaps some English Spices?  Those are my favorites.

Enough said.

Transcendent.  “Quaffable, but uh… far from transcendent.”  Miles wasn’t happy enough to screw up Merlot.  Now our wines have to be “transcendent”.  To transcend is to surpass others of the same kind.  Put another way: “This is the best damn wine I have ever had.”

The Best?  At least until the next transcendent wine’s cork is popped.  But until then, you’ll have to settle for

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Posted June 10, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Wine Etiquette

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