Words are important. They can cause heartache or happiness, terror or calm, hope or hopelessness. It’s wise to use words wisely.
Our elaborate use of language separates us from other “lower” creatures. The nuance of our words make us unique — through words our lives take shape.
As we know, words are frequently used to frame wine. A single word can at once tell you whether you’re prone to enjoy a certain wine or spit it out. Descriptors can guide or disguise. Smokey. Tart. Acidic. Stone fruit. Rich. And so on.
Too often, words are used to deceive drinkers. A salesman or bartender will tell you what you’re “supposed” to taste. They steer you away from an imperfection that needs masking. Through words, they misdirect. These snooty wineheads will put you on notice that they feel they know more than you.
There are certain words these holier-than-thou use that make us cringe. A mention of these terms puts us on alert – this guy or gal thinks they can tell me what I like and don’t like. Well guess what? Step off, fella, and cut that shit out. Here are 8 of the cringiest:
Astringency: The degree of astringency (how much a wine makes your mouth pucker) depends upon the amount of tannin a wine has absorbed from the skins and seeds of the grapes.
‘Astringency’ sounds like you have problems being regular. And that’s something no one wants to ponder while sipping on a Burgundy.
Oenophile: A wine aficionado or connoisseur.
You’re an oenophile. Really? Just say you dig wine, that you love where it takes you. That it’s so damn alive, and move on.
Plus, “ ___phile” makes people think of only one thing. So stop.
Terroir: French for “soil.” The physical and geographical characteristics of a particular vineyard that give the resultant wine its unique properties.
This one’s tough. Terroir is a central term when it comes to the science and essence of wine. But there’s no way around it: the word is overused, abused and often touted simply as a fallback.
Don’t know what to say about this wine? Comment on the ‘terroir.’ We don’t mind the word when used smartly, but it’s always wise to elaborate. Tell us just what it is about the terroir you so fancy or risk facepalms wherever you go.
Herbaceous: An aroma or flavor similar to green; often an indication of underripe grapes or fruit grown in a cool climate.
“Gnarly! This pinotage is totally herbaceous!”
Cool story, bro.
Opulent, elegant, refined: The problem with terms like these is the vibes they put out. If we’re to move wine past the traditional nature of boring, rich, stuffy old timers swirling and spitting, we need to shift the verbiage away from terms like elegant, opulent or refined.
Supple: A term used to describe smooth, balanced and quick wines. There are plenty of words that tag a wine as well-balanced, smooth or structured. We need less, not more.
More importantly, when I think of supple – generally meaning “bending and moving easily and gracefully; flexible” – I think of Anastasia Steele, and that’s a thought I’d rather not interrupt.
These words — use them wisely or don’t bother using them at all.