WINE SPEAK

Let’s play honest for one innocent moment. Without the power of verbal expression, how could one distinguish the interesting from a waste of time?

Gone are the days when gentlemen had it easy in impressing their dates. It only took a voluble flash of common wine jargons to ignite a fluster of admiration in a lady’s eager heart.

In case you have not been reading office memos lately, it’s a new millennium now. There is a whole new set of charms and challenges. Those who regularly scour the town for lucky encounters will need to upgrade their arsenal of wine slogans, either to impress or to make it more enchanting to be impressed.

Let’s start with five useful and easy to remember wine talks. These are guaranteed to impress, and easy to learn.

 

The wine is short.

This means the aftertaste is feeble and inadequate. After you swallow, the taste vanishes quickly. For wines of high quality, the aftertaste lingers on, so you can say the wine is long. To be technical about it, the correct way to put it is “the finish is long”.

When it comes to pleasures worthy of indulgence, what separates long from short is quite subjective, isn’t it? For the professional wine critics, anything below 10 seconds is short, long if it lingers for over 30 seconds and medium for a finish that lasts somewhere in between. One can disagree with the notion of calibrating pleasures using discreet units of measurements. After all, Beethoven’s 5th needed many bars to end an unnerving symphony but Schubert didn’t even want an ending for his 9th Symphony, the “unfinished”.

Short is always a bad sign in wine. Good wine is never short. A long finish is a necessary (but not the only) quality for greatness. In fact, this is the easiest way to judge the “class” of the wine.

 

The wine is flat

The oxford dictionary may disagree but a flat wine is one that is simply lackluster and flabby. It does hint of some deficiencies in terms of its condition. Apply this line in any one of these situations:

  • There is an absence of fresh acidity in a white wine
  • The Champagne that shows very few bubbles and tastes dull
  • A sweet wine that cloys and your palate can’t find any hint of bitterness underneath the sweetness.

A “sharp” wine is not an exact opposite of a “flat” one. You can say a wine is sharp if you feel a sharp sensation of fresh acidity on your tongue, not unlike the effect of a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

 

The wine needs more age.

 

It is a shame that some restaurants serve wines that are not properly pre-aged for optimum enjoyment. When you order red wine that costs anything over P1500, you have the right to expect a wine old enough to have shed the bitterness caused by young tannins.

When your taste buds encounter too much (dry) bitterness, the wine is too young to drink. Boldly suggest that the restaurant remove it from the wine list and out of reach for unwary customers. Not only will it not flatter the reputation of the establishment, it certainly won’t do any favors for the food.

Don’t be afraid to use the same line on white wine. White wine drunk too young often tastes flat and blend. It is in a state we call “reduction” which loosely means all its charming components are temporarily restrained and appear understated. A good white will certainly come out of it given a few years in a proper restaurant cellar.

 

The wine is full-bodied and has plenty of extracts.

Body is a tactile feeling not a flavor of taste. Call a wine full-bodied if it feels heavy on the tongue, not because its flavors are intense. In general wine with high alcohol content, say 13.5% tend to feel “full” in the mouth. There are of course many variations – medium-bodied, light, medium-full… you get the idea, I’m sure.

Extracts are tiny solid substance in the juice. Anyone who has any kind of a childhood understands the contents of extracts in orange juice. Apply the same thoughts to wine appreciation and your palate will tell you exactly when to say: “this wine has plenty of extracts”. If the extracts offend your palate, “the extracts are coarse” would be a correct remark.

 

The wine is well balanced and distinguished.

Although it might sound lame and innocent, this is one of the highest praises for a wine, so don’t use it lightly. Balance is what gives a good wine a rare chance to be great.

A wine is well balanced if all its major taste components are in good proportions with respect to each other. It tastes neither too tart too fruity (sweet) nor too bitter (tannic). The weight of the wine suits the intensity of its flavors. A big and heavy wine is awkward if its flavors are feeble and shy. In general, you can say a wine is well balanced if you like its taste as a whole and nothing sticks out like a sore thumb.

When you characterize a wine as distinguished, you are saying that it should be admired as an individual with distinction and of course, character. The opposite is a non-descript wine. It begs to be gulped down rapidly either to quench a thirst for intoxication or to make room for a second and hopefully more interesting bottle.

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Girls will always be girls, and a princess will always want a prince who can jump through her hoop. Through the ages of chivalry, that hoop has risen many notches higher. At this altitude the playing field is level, which means tough luck for the mediocre but a big break for the cavaliers.

So there you have it - five simple wine talks to fake it through a lucky evening. Come break of dawn, you’re on your own when she rolls over and whispers into your sleepy ears “good morning, wine guy”.

 
 

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