Beware; this list is not for the purpose of wine snobbery. Being fabulous is not about being labeled presumptuous and pompous. However, knowing your wines and grape varietals is important, especially when you’re flirting with an uppity crowd. Not only does wine knowledge impress people (if dished out properly) it’s an addition to your education. Wine is culture and being cultured is truly fashionable.
Quick History Background:
Wine has had the most influential social impact of all time. Most experts have concurred that wine dates back to 6000 B.C. Mesopotamia (a region which included southern Iraq). The earliest written accounts of viniculture were found in the Old Testament of the Bible, which illustrates how Noah had planted vineyards to make wine. The popularity of growing wine soon spread to Egypt, Greece and Rome and Spain.
Once Christianity swept over parts of the world, wine became one of Christianities conquests. Monk's became the successors of the prize and began developing new viniculture techniques. The nations of France and Italy followed in the monks footsteps as a leader in the production of the world’s most recognized wines. In the current era the U.S. has become another force behind producing quality fine wines.
Important Wine Terms to Know:
Terroir – Is French for "soil". The term is used in reference to the geography and soil that make up the complexity of wines.
Appellation: The country or region where the grapes for this wine were grown.
Vintage: This is the year in which the grapes were harvested, not the year in which the wine was bottled.
Varietal: The specific kind of grapes from which the wine was made from (Chardonnay, Albariño, Pinot Noir).
Body: The body describes the weight or heaviness of the wine in your mouth. The body is related also to the alcohol levels and can be mild, medium or heavy (big) bodied.
Acidic: The acidic level is found on labels and describes the tart or sour taste of the wine.
Balance: Balance is how the acidity, fruit, oak, sugar, alcohol, and tannin of a wine blend together making the wine balanced and sometimes not.
Body: This describes the ‘weight’ of the wine in your mouth.
Finish: The final impression or ‘nuance’ comes after you swallow. Does the wine leave your mouth feeling clean, dry, puckered or creamy?
Tannin: Chiefly a red wine term, tannins are the texture of wine. A wine with a lot of tannins will make your mouth feel very dry. Tannins come mostly from grape skins but can also come from oak, grape seeds and stalks.
Creamy: This is mainly a white wine term used to describe varieties such as Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc. Creamy leaves your mouth with a rich, smooth feeling, not mouthy like black tea.
Oaky: Wines fermented in oak barrels (depending on the amount of time it ferments) leaves the wine tasting toasty, smoky with spicy aromas. The more traditional wines (France, Italy) are made mostly using oak barrels.
Don't be lost! Learn how to read a label:
Got all of that information? Don’t feel too overwhelmed. Mastering the culture of wine takes a life time and more. Learning how to taste is not only a challenge but it is a rare gift that most of us Americans will never have. With that said, memorize the wine basics so you can impress but never use it to surpass others. Just understanding wine’s culture and complexity already will put you ahead of all those B.S. wine twirlers who think their Chardonnay tastes like pineapple and should be paired with Chinese food.
Questions? Comments? Get at me! Laurie Garrec - Style and Fashion