It is November, the thick of snuggle season; that time of year where you want to put on sweatpants, get under a thick blanket, open a bottle of wine and stay there until March. This is also prime date time. And then after that comes holiday party season! Point is, you’ve got a lot of wine, sparkling wine and champagne in your future.
Let’s face it, in our new food conscious culture, comes a raised consciousness when it comes to wine as well. Being a foodie and a wine connoisseur often go hand in hand. So chances are if you’ve got a foodie friend, they are probably a wine friend too. On the upside, you will eat and drink well whenever they’re around. The downside is half the time you don’t know what they’re saying or what to say back.
Like with a foodie conversation, in wine talk, you can rarely go wrong with describing what the wine tastes like to you. And like with a beer drinker, you can tell a wine snob the taste or feel you are looking for and they will help you find it in wine form.
Here are 8 things you can say the next time you’re at a nice dinner with a group of people who have all been to wine country more than once:
1. “I’ve been surprised with how full-bodied some pinots are compared to a shiraz.”
So wines are categorized by their “body” or heaviness (light, medium and full) . With red wines generally it goes like this from light to full: Pinot Noir, Grenache, Shiraz, Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. Here are the more popular whites in order: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay and Viognier. I like lighter-bodied wines, in the same way I like lighter beers, I don’t want to feel like I’m eating a beverage.
2. “I hate that Sideways gave Merlot a bad rep.”
All the wine connoisseurs reading this just rolled their eyes. Yes, a Sideways reference. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Sideways stars Paul Giamatti as an average guy who is also a wine snob. He and his buddy take a last boys’ weekend through Santa Barbara wine country and he proclaims his distaste for Merlot. It then became popular to hate Merlot, like how everyone hated The Eagles after the Dude said he did in The Big Lebowski.
3. “This Pinot really has legs.”
When you see people swirling their wine glasses and watching the glass like mad scientists, they are seeing if the wine has “legs”. Legs or tears are the streaks the wine leaves in the glass. Once thought to indicate quality, it really is an indication of alcohol content of the wine; the thicker and slower the legs, the higher the alcohol content. All wine has legs, but with reds (like a Pinot Noir) the legs are obviously easier to see and thus commented on more often.
4. “For me, when it comes to Chardonnay, it depends if it’s barrel aged in American or French oak.”
Although other wood is occasionally used, wine that is barrel aged is done so in either American or French oak for the most part. You can tell the kind of oak by the taste and texture. American oak gives a creamier texture and vanilla taste while French oak gives a spicier taste and silkier texture. The wood really is the spice rack of the wine making process and even if two wines are aged in American oak, depending on the age of the tree and climate it grew, it could add different notes to the wines. Nowadays wine is also aged in stainless steel to give it a cleaner taste. My personal preference is French oak or stainless steel aged wines.
5. “Kermit Lynch is the new Robert Parker.”
Who are these two people? Robert Parker is a very famous wine critic. He invented the 100-point system by which wine is rated today. Winemakers or vintners figured out what Parker liked in wine and created wines he would highly rate. So Parker’s palate had a heavy influence on wines made in the last 30 years. Now the guy they aim to please is Kermit Lynch, a California wine shop owner and international distributor of wine. His tastes lie more with the French and Italian schools of thought and so nowadays you will find wines that play to these styles.
6. (Sniffing wine) “This has notes of ____________.”
This is where you can’t go wrong guys, in the taste and smell of the wine. To taste it properly, swirl the glass, look at the glass (for the legs!), sniff and sip. Some people sniff the cork after opening. This is an old tradition that is no longer needed, so people who do this now are pretentious jerks. The scent of the wine is called the “nose” (makes sense). Every wine has several hints or notes that make up its character. From cherry to vanilla and even tobacco and wood, wines tend to combine flavors. The more elaborate you get in description, the less people will argue with you.
7. “The only rule I have for wine pairings is sparkling with spicy.”
It used to be that you drank white wine with fish and chicken and red wine with beef. And you can still live by that rule, but now that winemakers experiment more and chefs present a broader palate of flavors that is no longer a hard and fast rule. But sparkling wine and champagne with spicy foods is a great rule to bring out flavors in the wine and the food. One more thing: not all sparkling wine is champagne, but all champagne is sparkling wine. This is because champagne is sparkling white wine made in the Champagne region of France. Prosecco is Italian sparkling.
8. “I remember a time when I wouldn’t touch a screw top wine.”
When we all think of good wine, we think of the cork at the top. More and more good, quality wines are screw tops and this is actually hugely controversial in the wine community. Leading scientists to actually test in a lab the effects of the closure (cork, synthetic cork, or screw top) on the wine. It used to be that a screw top wine meant cheap, bad wine, but that is no longer true. More and more “good” wines are used screw tops. And let me just say that there are good, inexpensive wines to be had out there. Good wine does not need to break the bank.
Again like talking with a foodie, it is just important to keep an open mind and try anything. I mean, it’s wine, what’s the worst that can happen?!
FOR MORE INFO
Wanna be a fancypants wine drinker? Here are some sites and blogs to check out.
Wine Spectator – classic wine publication
Food and Wine – obviously
Wine – It’s in the name, great catologue plus vineyard employee reviews!
Gary Vaynerchuck’s Wine Library TV – this guy is hilarious and nuts…for wine!