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Talking Wine for Beginners: 6 Tips to Impress a Wine Expert

May 11, 2022 5 min read

Talking Wine for Beginners: 6 Tips to Impress a Wine Expert

Talking Wine for Beginners: 6 Tips to Feign Wine Expertise

If you are new to wine, talking about it with others can be confusing and/or intimidating. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be! In this post, we’ll be sharing a few tips we recommend to help you not only sound more knowledgeable, but help you learn more about wine. By the end, you’ll be confident enough to take a bottle of wine to a party and discuss it with all of the wine aficionados!

 

Wine is subjective

First, let’s remember that if you like a certain type of wine, that is all that counts. It’s YOUR preference, so be confident about it! Some people like Coca-Cola and some like Pepsi. My brother won’t even touch a Pepsi with a ten-foot pole. Why? It’s his preference. I love Root Beer (shout out to all my fellow Root Beer lovers!) and when I lived in England I couldn’t find it anywhere. Good luck convincing a person that a fizzy sweet beverage made out of roots is any good. Trust me, I’ve tried.

 

Flawed wine 

There are a few flaws in wine that are very apparent. Knowing some of these can help you navigate why you dislike a wine. Flaws are pretty universally disliked, but once in a while, someone will have an "acquired taste" for a particular fault. Take for example sour beer (no judgment here).

Below is a shortlist of the most predominant flaws in wine to help you navigate and discuss a wine - or as some may call it “fermented socks”:

  • Volatile Acidity (VA)/Acidic Acid aka Vinegar is in all wines to a certain extent and is a byproduct of fermentation. A clean winery will typically have less in their wines because too much particular yeast or bacteria + excess exposure to oxygen can take a good thing and make it bad. Some people are better at smelling it than others, but it is very apparent when it gets above a certain level. In small amounts, it can add to a wine's mouthfeel and add a bit of perceived sweetness and roundness. In large quantities, it starts to smell like a permanent marker or straight-up vinegar. There is even a legal limit for it in wine. Here is an article going into more detail: Volatile Acidity in Wine Making | Grape Breeding and Enology (umn.edu)
  • Brettanomyces is a yeast found in sour beers, kombucha, and other fermented beverages. It produces a couple of different compounds that some people love (generally in small amounts). However, if left unattended it can get out of hand, creating smells resembling "horse sweat" and "Band-Aid." Yep, totally gross. On the other hand, it can also produce chemicals that are, in small amounts, pleasant. These would smell like "clove" or "sassafras." Here is a Wikipedia article on the little bugger mentioned above: Brettanomyces - Wikipedia. You'll find brettanomyces more often in wines from Europe and less in the New World (like the USA, New Zealand, Australia, and other newer wine-producing areas), mainly due to the more recently built wineries, cleaner cellars, and lots of testing in the lab. picture of Brett yeast under a microscope
  • Oxidation is another subjective flaw. A little oxygen is necessary. However, too much for too long in the winemaking, aging, or bottling process can make a white or red wine look brownish and destroy all of the fruit flavors. If your white wine tastes like old browned apples, oxidation is probably the culprit. VinePair has an article worth reading on the subject: What Is Oxidation And What Is It Doing To My Wine? | VinePair an oxidized, brown apple next to a fresh apple
  • Here you can find a list of other flaws worth knowing about: 7 Common Wine Faults and How to Sniff Them Out | Wine Folly

 

Dry/Sweet

Is your wine sweet or dry? If it is a red wine, it will be on the dry side (less sweet). Dry means low or no fermentable sugars in the wine. Some large brands will add a little sweetness back to help mask the use of subpar grapes or to appeal to people with a sweeter palate. The remaining sweetness can be from around 2 grams per liter of wine up to 20 grams. Meiomi Pinot Noir is famous for having lots of sugar (approximately 18 grams per liter). Here is a blog we wrote focusing on sweetness in wine: Dry Wine vs. Sweet Wine: What You Need to Know| LRWC Blog - Lucky Rock Wine Co

Riesling can be confusing because it can be dry, off-dry, semi-sweet, and sweet. As a result, many of these wines started stating their level of sweetness on the label.

 

Light/ Heavy or full-bodied

When talking about red wines, you can use the term light or heavy about how the wine feels in your mouth. Light would be more in line with a Pinot Noir, heavy would be more like a Cabernet Sauvignon or Petite Sirah. This assessment of body/texture is similar to tea or coffee. If you leave the teabag in, the tea gets "heavy."

When discussing white wines, a lighter wine will often have more acid and taste "fresh." Conversely, full-bodied white wine will have more of a richness to it - this can come from oak, alcohol, and a lesser amount of acid.

 Red wine from light to heavy- light to darkin color

Price to quality

When we discuss wine, you hear us say things like, "wow…this is good for $15" or "yeah… it's good, but not for $40." We are always on the hunt for a wine that is a bang for the buck! A wine's prestige can be mesmerizing, but it might be a one-time purchase if you have to pay through the nose for it. Here are some blogs we wrote on finding what you want and saving some cash: 4 Tips & Tricks to Find a Wine Bargain (and our recommendations) - Lucky Rock Wine Co & 4 Differences Between Cheap Wine and Expensive Wine - Lucky Rock Wine Co

 

Know something about the wine you are drinking

A quick internet search of the following things can review a lot about a bottle of wine, give you some talking points, and help you learn another layer about the wine you are drinking. There are some excellent stories out there. A good story can make a wine taste better. So can a good discussion.

  • Where is the vineyard?
  • Where is the winery?
  • Is it a colossal winery or a small winery?
  • Any backstory nuggets?
  • Are the grapes purchased or grown by the winery?

 

The bottom line

Wine is just a beverage. The more you drink it, the more you will learn, and the more you will enjoy it. It’s great if you like wine! If you don't, that's okay too. Maybe come back in a while and try it again. As your life, tastes, and preference evolve, so will your palate!


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