Learning the language of wine may be much more complicated than one may think. While some tasting phrases may be self-explanatory, like dry or fresh, others sound so bizarre that it’s hard to even make a guess as to what they mean. Of course, you don’t have to use the entire vast vocabulary out there to talk about wine, but if you find yourself among some serious aficionados or professionals, knowing some of these may come in handy. Sure, practicing how to be more aware of the various aromas and flavors is the biggest step, but you’ll at least sound more impressive using these terms.
Tannin: This one is used constantly (solo and in conjunction with other words) and basically refers to that tight feeling you get in your mouth after drinking wine. It is from having a lot of stem, seeds and stalk in with the grapes while they were being crushed and is typically a positive thing.
Chewy: It may sound strange, but people use chewy to describe a wine—usually a full-bodied one—that feels very full and dense in their mouth.
Closed: No, this doesn’t refer to a wine that is emotionally unavailable. It is actually used to describe vino that should taste better than it actually does—think of it as the “disappointed parent” phrase. Maybe you didn’t let the bottle breathe enough before you poured it or you popped the cork way before you should have, but either way, it's not good.
Austere: Saying that a wine is austere is just a very fancy way of telling everyone that you don’t like it. Unless you actually do like your red tasting harsh and stern. Generally austere is used when it is too high in acid and tannins, but it can also tie in with something that’s too closed and wasn’t quite ready to be enjoyed. Overall, it depends on the context in which the word used.
Minerality: This one is used a lot, by everyone from winemakers to sommeliers, and denotes a wine that basically smells and tastes like rocks. This term is a pretty confusing one, since oftentimes it seems like some people simply use it as an overall positive expression for anything that is crisp and clean. Basically, if you are at a loss as to how to describe your affection for a glass of wine, just praise its minerality and everyone will nod.
In the spirit of fun, here are a few (rather dramatic) terms that aren’t as common as the five above, but would be way more fun to throw out on a blind date:
Brooding: If Buffy and Angel’s relationship was a wine term, this is it. A favorite among romantic vampires (we assume), a brooding wine is one that goes through many changes and has some intense highs and lows. Vintages that are super strong in flavor, but also very deep, could be called brooding.
Firm Skeleton: You probably won’t come across this one much, but if you want to use it, saying a wine has a firm skeleton means that it is very rich in tannins. The balance of the vino is the skeleton.
Haunting: If a wine lingers on your taste buds long after you’ve finished, it’s basically haunting you.