Have you ever been at a wine tasting and found yourself lacking in fresh and original ways to describe the stuff in your wine glass? This post is for you. I recently worked on a wine book in which the author, a renowned wine expert, had to think of distinctive ways to describe burgundies. After all, a wine can’t just be good or bad—it is described in specific terms, such as forward, stemmy, spicy, or balanced. All the words in italics are pulled directly from the guide book for your personal use.
First, be sure to swirl that swill in your glass a bit, stick your nose in it, and take a drink. Then nod your head slowly as if you’re contemplating and say, “It has impressive fruit, a cool intensity, and a lovely finish.”
Now you give it a try. The following phrases are guaranteed to make you sound like a connoisseur even though many seemed to me to have nothing to do with wine:
a little ungainly at present
positive at the end
Some sound suspiciously like backhanded compliments: will still improve, good for what it is, plenty of personality, attractive if unpretentious, funky but unstylish, and quite chunky but no lack of elegance.
(I personally hope I never drink a wine that’s considered chunky unless it’s sangria with some fresh fruit floating in it.)
Although one could usually distinguish the positive from the negative, it was not always clear what these terms really meant. I mean, what does austere taste like? And do I want to drink something that is getting hollow, quite firm, or slightly raw?
The nose itself was described in a number of ways: soft nose, stylish nose, faded nose, unforthcoming, and really quite shitty on the nose. Okay, I think I can assume that the last one is probably not a keeper.
A few could have been describing articles of clothing—loose-knit, unformed, and an absence of velvet.
My favorites? Seductive, quite evolved, long & luxurious, exotic on the palate, elegant, harmonious, gloriously profound, having plenty of depth and class, showing energy and distinction, and hinting at richness underneath. Come to think of it, those words also describe the perfect man…
Then there were those that sounded more like someone describing an ex-boyfriend or a bad date: backward, unexciting, a bit aggressive, not much backbone, a little one-dimensional, better at the end than on the attack, flat, a touch sweaty, or loose at the end.
Which begs the question: would you rather drink a sweaty wine or have a dinner with a sweaty dinner companion?