Learning the language of wine tasting

After reading words arranged alphabetically telling of wine tasters’ delights, one comes to realize that wine is perceived as a living and breathing commodity. It is not unlike that of living and breathing Homo sapiens. It’s this quality that elevates wine into something supernatural or lowers it into something not worthy of comment. On the negative side of wine tasting, one often believes wine tasters are nothing but snobs who drink themselves into oblivion. 

This, in part, may be true but since knowing and being on the inside has its benefits, wine tasting is necessary to the industry. Not everyone has a nose for the aroma of sniffing wine. Those having the olfactory sense of detecting the various scents of flowers, fruits, earth, have a well-developed nose; this means they are able to detect how balanced the wine is, what the taste resembles in the ordinary world of food and beverages, what other aromas inadvertently or deliberately seep into the barrels as they age. 

The human element

As with the human body, the acid base balance is important. Too much sweetness or base elements is not good for wine, nor is it good for the body; it needs to be counteracted with acids. Thus a good bottle of wine will be well-balanced in sweetness and acidity. Other terms likewise relating to human activity are ‘aggressive,’ meaning harsh and textured and loaded with tannin or acid, inhuman involvement, hands-on and not standoffish; ‘alcoholic’; ‘aeration,’ meaning to let the wine breathe. And believe it or not, the word ‘thief’ relates to wine, but not to the taste. It refers to a means of sneaking and in getting a taste while the wine is still processing in the barrel. There is a little outlet on the keg that allows this to be done. 

Negative terminology of wine

Everyday words are not good enough when exploring wine and to keep this activity above the street level of talk, much of the vocabulary users use are various expressions to show the negative and positive effects of wine making, wine tasting and the overall world of wine. Wine connoisseurship, as it looks from those on the outside looking in, is a world all its own. It has its own place in the blue book of snobbery and yes, authenticity. 

Astringent, backward, bite, bitter, blunt, dirty, musty, tinny, and tired and others fitting the negative thought describe the negative aspects of wine. These are caused by either too much tannin or too high an alcohol content or lack thereof. The dirty aroma may have been caused by lack of cleanliness during the preparation procedures which lingered and seeped into the wine during the processing. This is telling. It says the winemaker is careless and is no good at his craft.  Bitter is one of the four flavors of wine; the other three are sour, sweet and salty. 

Positive terminology

A good wine that is satisfying to the taste buds and the olfactory sense of the imbiber bring forth words of praise that slip easily and thoughtfully off the tongue of the wine taster. Imagine this: a wine glass half-filled is lifted delicately upward toward the nose, is slightly swirled and then sniffed. This action is not rushed but from all appearances is a staged performance. A sip, then a reflective glance and then a delicate smacking of the lips, if that action can be done delicately, then after another small sip, as if the first one was not sufficient enough to give proof of the finished effect, a verdict: Rich, robust, lush, peak, meaty, dry, lively, perfumed, lingering, heady, harmonious, elegant, clean, brilliant are words that possibly sum up the sip. 

Reverting back to the human element in wine tasting, the little droplets that form on the inside of the glass and then trickle down are called legs. Hey, wonder what the first user of that descriptor was thinking when they named that sighting? That’s hard to know and it makes sense to believe that a wine taster is a unique individual who not only learns the wine-speak, but is liable to coin his own words or use any that comes readily to mind. What makes the professional able to do that is to be aware of the industry, of what others have sniffed and explained and to be able to follow his nose and his sense of the wonders of wine drinking; or his distaste for it if he has had negative and less than celestial experiences with it. 

Talking like a pro is probably not easy to do. Fakes are easily spotted and how they’re dealt with is anybody’s guess. The Truth paves the way toward better understanding of the wine industry and the reason grapes were first fermented into wine in the first place. A little advice from those in the know will help those in need of understanding understand. What say the experts? 

The meaning of the word wine is explained by Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., of Andrews University. He traces the word wine back to its biblical roots and goes into an in-depth description of the two types of wine spoken about in the bible, fermented and un-fermented. 

In answer to the question ‘is wine tasting authentic or is it a classy show off event,’ no answers can be found. Therefore one must decide that it’s a little of both. The authenticity is within each winery and its overall purpose. What more can be said? 

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