Food & Drink

The Best Words to Use to Talk About Wine

Just because you enjoy drinking wine doesn't mean you need to start pointing out the sunberries you smell (because you don't, since they don't exist).
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Here's a truth universally acknowledged by everyone loves wine: Nobody loves a wine know-it-all. Keep your jargon to yourself and put all those weekend wine courses to good use ordering us the best bottle on the list.

Here's how to talk about wine without sounding like a pompous jerk.

DARE TO SAY LESS.

"Once people get a bit turned on to wine, they think they have to sound erudite. But the people who know the most about wine often talk about it in simple terms," says Mark Oldman, author of the new How to Drink Like a Billionaire: Mastering Wine with Joie de Vivre.

WHEN DESCRIBING WHAT A WINE SMELLS LIKE, PLEASE REFRAIN FROM USING THE TERM "BOUQUET."

"Aroma" will get the job done. Or better yet, just get to the specifics. Here are a couple of hints on what you might look out for as you're smelling: red fruits—like strawberries and cherries—in red wines, and citrus fruits—like lemons and limes—in white wines.

STOP SWIRLING SO MUCH.

Some swirling is good, Oldman says, since it opens up the wine and lets the aromas come out, but any more than a few swirls is overkill. In fact, it marks you as a newbie: Too much swirling is "a mistake that early oenophiles make."

KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WINE GROWING REGIONS AND GRAPES.

This is a sure sign that you know what you're talking about—and aren't just showing off. For example, Chablis is a region in Burgundy, France, that produces chardonnay. Sancerre makes sauvignon blanc. Rioja, in Spain, is known for tempranillo. In Italy, the Chianti region in Tuscany makes sangiovese.


REGIONS ARE SPLIT INTO THE OLD WORLD AND THE NEW WORLD, AND THE DIFFERENCES ARE BIG.

"Old World" traditionally refers to Europe and the Middle East, while "New World" is everywhere else. To make a broad generalization, Old World wines tend to be lighter, lower in alcohol, and more restrained, while New World wines are often fuller-bodied, higher in alcohol, and have bolder fruit flavors.

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BE AWARE OF COLOR, SINCE A WINE'S COLOR TELLS YOU ABOUT ITS AGE.

White wines gain color as they get older. Red wines, on the other hand, lose color as they age.

DON'T BE AFRAID OF WINES WITH SCREW CAPS—THEY'RE NOT NECESSARILY INFERIOR.

In fact, they eliminate the possibility of TCA, also known as "cork taint," which affects between three and five percent of wines. "Corked" wines are said to smell like "wet newspaper" or "wet dog," and they taste dull and lifeless.

SPEAKING OF CORKS, DON'T SMELL (OR TALK ABOUT) THEM.

The sommelier or waiter may present a cork to whoever is tasting the wine at a meal, but the purpose of that is to show that it's intact. Smelling the tasting pour will give you all the information you need about whether it has any "discernible flaws," Oldman says.

Based on these tips—and with the help of a knowledgeable waiter or sommelier—you should be able to talk about wine with confidence. If you want to learn more, consult Karen MacNeil's The Wine Bible and Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World Complete Wine Course. Those are the two books the Court of Master Sommeliers recommends as prerequisite reading for its Introductory Sommelier course.

Also, the more you drink the more you'll learn, so taste as much wine as possible—you can always tell yourself it's for educational purposes.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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