Wine and the Education of the Meek

Maybe you are reading FERMENTATION, other wine blogs and other wine info on the net because you’ve recently developed a passing interest in wine. Maybe your new boyfriend is a wine lover and you want to share. Perhaps you have a new job in a wine related field and you need to get up to speed. Whatever it is that brought you to the subject of wine pretty soon you’re going to bump up against a guy like me.

You’ve heard about these people. They swirl, sniff, think, sniff some more, sip then blurt out some incomprehensible bit of verbiage such as, "This wine’s a bit light in the middle but it shows very good length and I love that note of black currant on top."

I swear to God, we aren’t TRYING to intimidate the "wine meek", but we know we do. Still, if you are caught in a room with two or three of these types it’s very unlikely they’ll tone down their vocabulary just for for. You’re best defense against the incomprehensible is knowledge. If you want to really enjoy wine, if you do want to understand it, if you want to converse with those of us who have fallen into the pit of winedom and can’t get up…you need to learn a new language. If you don’t, you’ll just feel intimidated and give up.

There are a bunch of books out there that offer definitions, or "translations, if you will, of wine terms. If you are new to wine get one. I still have a French/English translation dictionary that is falling apart because it experienced every step I took on my first trips to France. Nearly half my day on my twice yearly trips was spent standing in front of some poster or sign or menu looking up and down from the words to the dictionary, back and forth.

Rachel Forrest delivers what is a pretty darn good short primer on wine language for the space she has in a newspaper column in the Portsmouth Herald. She even gets the definition of "terroir" right…and this is a rarity for a newspaper column. But best of all her column is empowering to those who want to learn more. And this is the most you can ask of an advise column on wine.

There are others on the net too:’s Wine Definitions
The Vino Wine Glossary of Terms

Posted In: Wine Education


4 Responses

  1. TheFatMan - January 25, 2006

    Cool! Now I won’t sound like quite as much of an idiot.
    Much love Tom!

  2. maggie - January 25, 2006

    Did you have to learn a new language to eat food?
    Any newbies reading this? Think of wine as food and don’t be intimidated by these idiots. They love using their acquired lingo just like some guys love talking about carborators and alternators.
    I’ve been in this biz for 16 years and speak my own pidgeon. Because I learned a long time ago, those people speaking their language in the corner? Aren’t very interesting anyway.
    Sorry, Tom. Sore subject with me, asking people to do so much, just to get a buzz on. And P.R. guys wonder why more Millenial don’t drink wine. If it ain’t as easy as a Mac, they don’t bother. Duh. Don’t need a Wine Institute commisioned study for that.

  3. tom - January 25, 2006

    Maggie, Maggie, Maggie…
    I’m merely suggesting that if you WANT to be conversant in wine, you need to learn the language. That is if you really WANT to try to understand the drink.
    Just to drink it? There is no requirement other than it be liqued and have alcohol. And, as it turns out, the Millennials are picking up wine at a much faster click than the Baby Boomers.

  4. Iris - January 26, 2006

    Tom, thanks for the links, especially for vino-wine glossary – it will help me while surfing through English tasting commentaries! You don’t learn briary and brawny in English lessons at school over here…
    For those who come over to France nowadays and want to have a “pocket-dictionary”, Lexiwine-Lexivin compiled by Paul Cadiau, author-éditor of Pernand Vergelesses is a useful help. If you are digging more profoundly into winemaking and tasting (if there are still any Californians who want to see, how the others do) the Winemakers’ essential phrasebook by James March (ed Michael Beazly) helps you in English – French – German -Italian- Spanish and Portuguese to find your way through vineyards, cellars and tasting. And the Dictionnaire Moet-Hachette du Vin in six languages even gives you the Japanese version.
    Besides that, a big smile while appreciating a good wine in presence of friends may need nothing else to communicate the essential information.

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