Wine Lingo: What's a Taste?
Walk into a tasting room. Any tasting room. What’s the first thing the server puts down? Is it a wine list? A club brochure? Often it’ll be a sheet of tasting notes.
Sometimes these notes look like they’re written in another language. Swahili, maybe. After all, how can a wine be “jammy” if it’s a liquid? What does “chewy” even mean? This wine jargon is exactly the curtain Terra Blanca by the Glass wants to rip away from wines, so, without further ado, here’s a quick rundown of those mysterious and cryptic things called “tasting notes.”
At their most basic, tasting notes are descriptions of wines. These descriptors will vary varietal to varietal (since Syrah does not taste like Merlot), wine to wine (Arch Terrace Cab Sauv versus Signature Series Cab Sauv, for example), and vintage to vintage (wines change as they age). These descriptions are taking an unknown flavor combination and breaking it apart using familiar flavors, like how alligator tastes like a fishy chicken. Or so we’ve heard.
So what’s the big deal?
Tasting notes can help you figure out what you’re getting yourself into with a wine. If you know you don’t like dry wines, you can stick to the sweet stuff. Anyone not a fan of pepper should avoid most Washington Syrahs and Malbecs. Citrus lovers will enjoy our 2012 Signature Series Rousanne, and Cab Sauv fans shouldn’t skip the 2009 Signature Series Merlot.
Knowing what you like and don’t like in wine will help our Wine Educators give you the best tasting experience possible. Just don’t be surprised if they push your bubble a little bit. The tasting note for that is “expand your palate,” in case you were wondering.
When it comes to the notes themselves, some of the words can be downright confusing. Words like “chalky,” “smooth,” “cassis,” “herbaceous,” and “heavy” don’t sound like they describe a liquid, yet these are words used commonly in wine notes. Why? Because they have a slightly different meaning when used with wine.
Chalky and smooth are both textures. Cassis and herbaceous are flavor components. Heavy is a “mouthfeel.” Think steak versus chicken; steak is heavy, chicken is light. Apparently everything food related comes back to chicken.
Next time you’re visiting the Tasting Room and a Wine Educator uses a weird word to describe the wine, don’t let them get away with it. Ask! We love getting questions, and the best way to learn what on earth is a “round” wine is to taste!
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again. The best thing about wine tasting is that it takes practice.
Veni, Vidi, Vinum!