Wine Lingo - What is all this gibberish about?

Posted by John Clerides on Jun 05, 2019

A long time ago I remember watching Phil Donahue, ya ok I am dating myself, he was interviewing William F Buckley Jr. slouched down in his seat, tie askew, somewhat disheveled he was asked why does he have to use all those fancy words. His reply, and somewhat elitist, was the English language, like others, was created to describe specific things, happenings, nuances, otherwise how would people in specific fields communicate with each other.

Definitely not as smart and hopefully nowhere near as arrogant, wine language is essentially the same. So with that in mind, here are a few terms that you will hear in the wine biz:

Tannin - think tea, that mouth drying feeling you get when you drink a strong tea

Acid - think lemon juice

Sweetness - we all know what this is

Finish - how does the wine feel when you drink it, does it give you pleasure, causes you face to wince, do you want a second glass

Balance - like a good book, a good start, middle and finish. All of the above three in balance, yes everyone’s taste is different but we have to have a base.

Racking- the process of transferring wine from one barrel to another, airing it out… in France it’s called Soutirage

Terroir - no English translation, essentially the plot of land, region, exposition of the land to the sun, rain, wind, minerals in the ground and the hand of man. All sites are not the same. Here is an example: we have all seen tomatoes grown in a garden, some grow well and others 20 feet part do not grow well - that is terroir

Subois - French term, fresh tossed earth, a sense of place

Garrigue or Maquis - underbrush, shrubs, could be sage, fennel, basil. Note the term Maquis was used to describe the French Underground or Resistance in WWII. A great book to read is the Maquis Soldiers of the Night by David Schoenbrun

SO2 - Sulfur, this is the nasty stuff that smells like rotten eggs, causes your sinuses to close up and causes you to sneeze and gives you a headache

Pétillant - slightly fizzy, sparkling.

Wines also taste different with different types of foods & sauces. Experiment; take a bite of your steak, sip your wine, then add some salt to the steak take another sip of wine, what happens to the wine? Write it down, then perhaps add some pepper, take another sip. This is how you build your base of knowledge, one glass at a time one meal at a time. Get your friends to bring different wines the only thing that can happen is you have a good time.