"Help! My wine lingo is corked."

Saturday, 27 April, 2013
Shante Hutton, wine.co.za
Dear Chard O’Nay,

I’ve never been much of a wine drinker because I’m always scared off by how tricky wine words are. I find  ‘structure’ and ‘tannins’ such weird words to describe a drink and it makes me run a mile. Can you help me with my wine lingo please so I know what the heck everyone is talking about.

Many thanks,

In Lingo Limbo.
Dear Lost in Translation,

That is a terrible reason not to drink wine. When I skim the credits, I don't understand what the heck a 'gaffer' is or does but I still enjoy watching Tim Burton movies.

You have been put off wine for the wrong reason darling and perhaps that is the fault of wine professionals and writers who seem hell-bent on bamboozling consumers with words like 'Austere' and 'Tight" as well as that choice phrase, 'Chewy tannins'. Please, shake off those shackles and embrace wine as it was meant to be enjoyed, subjectively.

Wine terms will always abound and there are some that are important to remember for if you can learn those, you will feel less like breaking out into a cold sweat when you read a wine write-up. It will also give you a deeper understanding of the wine in the same way that being able to pick out key flavours and cooking methods in food can enhance the eating process.

I am not slamming the wine writing/tasting industry, I am a glorious part of it, and those descriptive and coded reviews are important for many but for me, I detest reading ones that might as well have been written in hieroglyphics. We want people to buy, drink and enjoy wine, not to think it is out of their league.

To help you with the basics, here's a few choice words and their meanings. For a more detailed list though, click here

Acidity - more often found in white wines giving them that zesty, tart finish.

Chewy Tannins - that feeling after you have sipped a particularly dry wine which makes you want to chew the inside of your cheeks off. It's not always a bad thing though.

Elegant - a nice way of saying that everything fits together in a soft, gentle manner rather like Kate Middleton. These wines age well because they have the right building blocks to them just like kate's cheekbones which, in the beginning, might have been a bit too chiseled for some.

Structure - parts of the wine that hold it together. Too much structure and the wine can be deemed harsh and not enough structure and the wine becomes a floppy mess.

Tannins - these occur naturally in the skins, seeds and stems of the grape. It's the factor within the wine that makes your mouth pucker. Because red grapes are usually fermented with their skins and pips, tannins are abound. They are the backbone of red wines whilst acidity plays that part for white wines. Taste-wise, it is the richness, the firmness or the dry clawing sensation in your mouth.

Terroir - it's the influences that the geography, soil and climate have on the grape.

Tight -When the wine just refuses to bless you with a good drinking experience because it may be too young. Like trying to paint a masterpiece with a 3 year old.

For a list of the worst, most annoying wine words, click here

So don't fall apart when you hear the word Terroir. Forgo running to the hills when you happen across 'unctuous'....actually, scrap that, you may still run for the hills simply out of embarrassment for the person who feels the need to utter that word when a simple 'this wine is oily' would suffice.

Ask me anything darlings
Ask me anything darlings

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