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I have not always enjoyed wine. My Spanish ancestors are rolling in their graves at the thought, but it’s true. It’s too bitter, too dry. I once heard a man describe the taste a strong red can leave you with as “the oaky afterbirth.” I had another friend who, upon meeting his significant other’s family for the first time and realizing they were all “wine people,” went so far as to make up a lie on the spot about how he was allergic to tannins.
They’re married now. He’s still keeping up with that whopper, as far as I know.
My point is, wine is something most people have to really work to develop a palate for. We could speculate as to why—perhaps the prevalence of super sugary beverages that we’ve spent most of our childhood consuming has ruined our ability to detect nuances in flavor the same way generations before us could. Or maybe it’s simply that, seeing as your taste buds die as you age, wine really is just not very good and the only reason your grandparents love it is because they can’t tell what they’re drinking anymore. This argument could go on forever though and would make the article way too long to hold your attention. Plus, we’re not concerned so much with the “why” as we are with figuring out how to, after establishing that we all actually hate wine, convincingly pretend to appreciate it in order to appear classier.
Look, wine is just fancy, vinegar-inspired garbage water. It’s rotten juice, and we all should just start being honest with ourselves about that. However, in the absence of honesty, I support the desire to feign knowledge and/or enthusiasm. Maybe you want to impress a date, maybe you just want to relate to that cool, wine-loving aunt over Thanksgiving, who knows, I’m not here to judge. Here is a short and simple list of words to throw around to help you fake it ‘till you make it:
Chewy—a heady, rich wine, sometimes used in relation to tannins (when you almost want to chew away the dryness after drinking).
Complex—the flavor changes in your mouth, there’s not just one singular note.
Corky or Corked—the cork was contaminated or loose, making the wine smell musty and taste sour.
Foxy—as opposed to floral; more of a musky scent.
Good legs—has a high Alcohol By Volume (ABV).
Mouthfeel—literally exactly what you’d think.
Oaked—when there are things other than fruits (think butter, vanilla, spices) added to the wine for flavor.
Silky—a smooth wine, almost creamy.
Tannins—bitter tasting, more prevalent in red wines than in white, which can really dry out your mouth.
So, next time you see Aunt Cheryl laughing a little too loudly over a glass of red, you can feel comfortable sliding on over and commenting on the chewy tannins or some other made-up nonsense. And who knows? Maybe someday you’ll actually know what you’re talking about.