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The language of wine.

Wine lovers love to talk wine as well as taste it And what a language they use--winespeak, you might call it

"Nose this one. Flinty." "This one begins meaty but no finish." "It's corky." "Its flabby." "It's got breed." "I pick up apple."

Translation: To nose means to smell. Flinty is a steely aroma similar to gun flint found in some dry white wines. Meaty is a very full-bodied wine, almost chewy. Finish is aftertaste. Corked means a dirty, damp smell that a bad cork gives to a wine. Flabby is lacking in crisp acidity. Breed is a high praise for a distinguished wine. And apple means clear only to the tastebuds of the taster. Certain young white wines do indeed smell like apples, but one person's apple is another person's apricot

The smell of a wine can remind us of many things, such as fruits, flowers, herbs, spices, spring meadows, even leather. The point is each of us has a personal memory bank of aromas, and the richer the bank, the more memories we can pull from it to describe a wine.

Still, while describing what we smell and taste in a wine is not a precise science, there are prescribed steps to tasting. We taste with our senses of sight smell and taste. Sight reveals the wine's color and clarity. Smell gives the "nose" or aroma (in younger wines) or bouquet (in more mature wines). Taste tells us just that--how the wine tastes.

And, there is the wine taste's vocabulary. Body refers to the feeling of the wine's weight in the mouth; think of how a clear consomme feels compared to a cream soup. Dry means not sweet Legs (a k a tears) are the globules of wine that fall down the sides of the glass after the wine has been swirled. Tannin is an essential component of red wines, a natural preservative that helps give a wine long life. Harsh and mouth puckering in its youth, tannin softens as a wine ages.

Because wine gets its basic character from the grape, a summary of some of these grapes provides a quick lesson in the wine lexicon.

White Wines

Chardonnay: One of the finest white grapes. Aroma usually likened to melon, figs, hazelnuts and, when aged in oak casks, vanilla.

Gewurztraminer Pungent spicy with strong floral aromas such as dried rose petals.

Riesling: A fine white grape with aromas of fresh flowers and apples in youth, apricot and peach when made as a sweet wine. Good acidity.

Sauvignon Blanc: Aromatic with distinctive herbaceous flavors of grass and bell peppers, and occasionally olives.

Semillon: An aroma sometimes likened to figs, other times to the herbaceousness of Sauvignon Blanc with which it is often blended. Tends to be rather low in acidity.

Red Wines

Cabernet Sauvignon: A noble grape that produces elegant, austere wines with aromas reminiscent of black currants, olives, tea and cedarwood. Usually has excellent acidity and, in youth, high tannin.

Merlot Similar to Cabernet Sauvignon but softer, fleshier and more supple, with an aroma redolent of black plum, cassis and other ripe berries.

Nebbiolo: A great red grape of Italy that produces wines with high tannin, deep color and intense flavors likened to coffee, leather, tar and even violets. It softens and mellows with age.

Pinot Noir A noble grape that makes wine with a distinctive aroma of leather, cherry, black currant and horsebarn. Usually medium-bodied with long fruit flavors in the finish.

Syrah : Deep-colored wine that is peppery and highly tannic in youth, generous and velvet-textured in maturity.

Zinfandel: An aroma of raspberries as well as other berries; it can also be peppery and earthy.

Even if two people taste the same wine and agree that it is clear, dry, medium-bodied and has adequate acidity, they may not agree on whether the aroma reminds them of coffee, tea, pepper or plum. For that matter, one may like the wine and one may not That's the nature of wine tasting--a technical approach and ultimately, a subjective evaluation. But then,that's also the fun of it.
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Title Annotation:grape terminology
Author:Fried, Eunice
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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