Why are sommelier conversations sometimes called “bird’s tongue”? How to quickly learn to talk about wine? In what words to correctly describe the taste and aroma of wine? Oleg Kurako, a sommelier of the Valentino restaurant, has prepared answers to these questions and a 10-word cheat sheet that will help to understand guilt.
Sometimes the sommelier’s language is difficult to understand due to its overload of slang, specific local terms and foreign words. This is normal and inherent in any narrow field.
The bad news is that it can take years to master this language. The good news is that the average wine lover doesn’t need it. But how can a lover describe wine correctly? We have prepared for you a short dictionary for all tasting occasions. 10 words – 10 steps to understanding wine.
Dry or Sweet
“Do we take dry or semi-sweet?” – This question can often be heard near the wine shelf in the store. And buyers are right – the sugar content is almost the main factor in taste. When we say “dry”, we mean wine in which the yeast has eaten all the natural sugar during fermentation (“fermented dry”). Beginners call such wines sour, and connoisseurs appreciate the natural taste and harmonious combination with food.
Fruit, berry, flower
There are hundreds of aromas of wine and the science of wine perfumery, which studies them. You can study them in two ways – to develop your own sensitivity to smells and “collect” scents in memory. Or study typical aromas for certain wines and grape varieties and know what the nose will hear in the wine at a glance at the label. The first way is interesting, but difficult. The second is lighter and shorter. But how to describe the scent to a beginner? It’s simple – give the aroma a group description. This can be a group of citrus aromas (lemon or grapefruit), floral (acacia flowers or wildflowers), fruit (pear, apple, peach, etc.) or berry (currant, raspberry, blueberry).
This is the name given to a group of phenolic compounds of plant origin that have tanning properties. If after a sip of wine you feel dry mouth, then the wine has a high content of tannins. It is said that such wine can be “chewed”. If the wine is watery and there is no feeling of dryness, then the tannins in the wine are not enough.
The body of wine
To understand this term, conduct an experiment. Hold water in your mouth and remember the sensation. Then compare with the sensations of wine in the mouth. Wine will give a feeling of “weight” and viscosity – this is how we feel the body of wine.
“Oak” or aged wine
Only 3-5% of wines in the world are aged in barrels. It is believed that the extract smooths the wine, makes it more noble, enriches the aroma with new nuances. In the 1990s, there was even a 300% aging in the barrel – when the wine was alternately aged in three new oak barrels so that it received the maximum aroma of oak. The aromas of the wine were muffled and such wines were called “tanned”. Now such extreme endurance does not meet. Red wines with aging receive notes of spices, cocoa, coffee, chocolate, and white – vanilla.
This term refers to wines that are easy to drink. This can be called both simple cheap wines and expensive gourmet drinks. You will immediately understand what we are talking about, if you ask yourself, do you want to repeat a sip of wine after drinking? Usually cheap wines with aging in oak are not easy to drink – they are difficult to perceive and require a pause. Light, aromatic, low-alcohol wines with low tannin content are easy to drink and are called drinkable.
The key characteristic of wine, which is often criticized – “Sour cream!”. But try to imagine an apple or peach without acidity – they will be fresh. Similarly, the acidity shades the taste of wine, gives it character. Acidity can be high due to the peculiarity of the grape variety (“Riesling”, “Sauvignon Blanc”) or the geography of the region. The further north the wine is, the higher its acidity is usually. The acidity of wine is felt differently by different people.
If the taste of wine leaves you with a pleasant feeling, then this wine is called balanced. In this wine, the acidity is not aggressive, tannins are moderate, alcohol is not too high and not too low. Balanced wine is like a suit that fits perfectly to the body. Unbalanced wine – a suit from a novice tailor. In such a wine, the acidity will run high, alcohol will burn the mouth, the taste will fail.
Wine that goes well with food. Usually this term comes to mind if during the tasting the wine “requires” accompaniment, there are ideas about combining it with dishes, there is a feeling that with food it will get better. Gastronomic can be simple cheap wines (drink pizza) and expensive (to form complex gastronomic pairs).
This is the finish of the wine – the taste that remains in the mouth after a sip or tasting dose. The taste can be long – it’s nice and good, or short – let’s not say it’s bad, but not interesting. The taste can have specific shades of taste – berry, fruit, honey. These sensations can be compared to the taste of specific foods after eating them – berries or fruits. You can say – “This wine has a long bright finish” or “The wine has a short taste, it seems to have failed.”
Oleg Kurako, a sommelier of the Valentino restaurant, will tell you about these and other interesting facts of wine consumption. He also invites you to visit his tastings every month.
See you at the Valentino restaurant!
To book a table for tasting or gastro-dinner – please call us:
+38 (097) 23 56 777
+38 (032) 23 56 766