Oh, tasting notes. The big problem with wine lingo is that it usually only talks to itself. Indeed, we often assume that only a dedicated vocabulary can be used to describe wine.
Yet, like any human experience, the goal should simply be to be understood, and not sound fancy by using words that have no meaning to those you’re talking to. This is a time to drink, not to play f*cking Scrabbles, people.
You can go that route, but it’s a little messy.
Still, I think it would be worthwhile to agree on a certain structure in order to make sure we understand each other. However, rather than to offer a list of vocab language-class style (Donde està, la biblioteca?) I suggest a 4-step framework in which you’ll get to enjoy and describe all the essential elements of a given wine. Here are, without further ado, the main elements I recommend you focus on next time you choose to get drunk in style.
When you first taste a wine, the first thing that strikes your neurons is acidity. Indeed, a wine that’s high in acidity will automatically make your mouth water, while a softer wine will feel heavier and might even make you nauseous if you have too much (think maple syrup for an extreme comparison).
In the same vein, does your mouth feel dry after each sip? That’s either a sign of acidty or tannins (astringency, if you feel fancy). You might also notice that the taste of wines with sharper acidity will normally carry on longer – that’s because acidity is a great vehicle to have a wine carry on its flavors for a given certain amount of time.
First, let’s talk fruit, a wine descriptor you’ve probably heard a billion times. Despite that, fruity components are an essential description of the “mid-palate.” Does the wine tastes like fruit(s)? If not, what does it taste like? For the more adventurous out there, you can even try to identify which fruit you taste (and spare us with that lame joke of telling us it tastes like grape juice, you’re better than that, kiddo.) However, note that this is not because a wine is fruity that it is sweet, and vice versa. I know this might be surprising to some of you, but, but think about it: brown sugar – for example – is sweet, right? Now, how fruity is brown sugar, smartie? There you go. *mic drop*
The second element of the mid-palate are called tannins. What the hell are those, you ask? Please read my dedicated introductory article on the subject to give learn the basics of the subject. To make it simple (and prevent you from falling asleep reading a treatise on water soluble polyphénols precipitating polysaccharides and alkaloids proteins Zzz …), we’re just talking about what makes a wine feel rough and drying on the tongue. You know, when you drink a full-bodied red wine without eating anything and you feel you just licked a sheet of sandpaper? That’s tannins, folks. For starters, you’re already pretty much the baws if you can say the wine is “really tannic” or “not tannic at all.”
3. Talk About the Finish
Once a wine is swallowed and the first soft mists of intoxication make you consider texting your ex, do you find that the vino’s taste lingers long after swallowing? Also, is that lingering taste different from the taste of the wine itself? If so, how so?
Of course, somms have found a pretentious-sounding term even to describe the seconds in which a wine’s last, which they call “caudalies.” I predict that Caudalie will also be the next it name once the world’s 20 billion Kims are old enough to make out with their pimply boyfriends.
There you are – well done! Once you have the structure in mind, you really just have to develop your own vocabulary to describe what you feel at every step. You’re a poetry boss? Go ahead, tell me all about the wine that hits you like a loose-lipped kiss of burning passion. More of a matter-of-fact type? Bring on the fruit and savoury descriptors. Quantitative? Evaluate the acidity on a scale of 1 to 10, the fruit character on 20 and count the finish in nanoseconds. That’s all fine and dandy, kids. The only rule is that there are no rules – just enjoy and have some fun with it!