Wine Talk

Snooth User: JoanneMerc

No clue about Wine Terminology

Posted by JoanneMerc, Jan 24, 2015.

I have been trying to find info on wine terminology. Im lost everytime I visit the wine section and read the reviews as I dont know what they mean.  Please help. I enjoy red and whites that are not very sweet and not dry and that I can drink 3 sips at once without  having to pucker. Not as sweet as Beringers white zifandel  and not as dry as Mirrasou pinot Noir.  $10-15 range  Suggestions?? I live on Long Island. Something that goes with all foods.  Thanks.

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Reply by outthere, Jan 24, 2015.

Nothing goes with all foods. Maybe Grenache/Syrah. Chenin Blanc goes well with food, The label will have the denotation Sec or Demi-Sec in the wine name. Sec may mean dry but the allowable sugar in Sec wine makes that meaning a nonstarter for me. There are also many dry wines that give the perception of sweetness so don't narrow your views too much.

In the $10-15 range I am often disappointed so I avoid it for the most part. Plus I enjoy some acid structure to my wine. Being though that you are on the east coast you have an abundant selection of European wines available to you. Many values to be had there but I'm the wrong guy to ask.

Don't get caught up in the terminology or the shelf talker reviews. Reviews are someone else's opinion and unless you know that you share their opinion they are useless. Ask someone in the wine store for a suggestion based on what you enjoy and see if they can pair you up with something good for your tastes. this can be hit and miss until you find the right person so don't give up.

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Reply by JoanneMerc, Jan 24, 2015.

But when reading winemakers notes, I need an explanation for tannins,  acidity, full body, soft, etc.  and whats the difference in ferrmenting in oak barrels, steel barrels etc.....  thanks.

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Reply by dvogler, Jan 24, 2015.

Joanne,

Welcome to the forum.  I love your enthusiasm.  Buying wine is not like buying clothes, where you can hold it, feel it and try it on to see if it fits just right.  Wine is never the same from year to year, and believe me, your taste will change, or what wines and characteristics you like will change.  I understand that you're asking for help to better know what it'll taste and feel like in your mouth, based on the descriptions.  Honestly, I don't even give much credence to those descriptors.  You need to buy and try.  I can't help you with whites, but for you I would suggest a Chianti Riserva as a trial.  Make a list and simply try one per week and check them off by variety.  You might be surprised at what you will like.  Also, even if you don't like it after you open it, leave the glass for an hour and try it again.  Then try it (out of the bottle) the next day and you'll be surprised at how different it can be.  As for barrels vs stainless, that's another time. 

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Reply by JoanneMerc, Jan 24, 2015.

Thank you.  When does red wine go bad after opening. I end up using it as cooking wine after a few weeks.  Should I refridgerate it? I have tried the Chianti Riserva. It is a bit dry for me.

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Reply by dvogler, Jan 24, 2015.

It's not that it goes "bad", but it oxidizes and turns to vinegar.  Usually, it'll be good for a few days.  Four or five days after opening it starts turning.  You'll taste it.  Refrigeration might help a little, but then it's cold!  You'd have to let it warm up to enjoy it.  I think your palate may not be ready for recommendations (not a bad thing!), but you should just keep buying a red and trying it.  Like I said, open it and give it a couple hours to breathe.

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Reply by Badge4, Jan 24, 2015.

If you want the closest thing to an all around wine that sort of goes with most everything look for a Pinot Noir. You might find yourself spend in the low twenties but a fairly safe bet for a wine novice in my opinion.

 

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Reply by A Oak A, Jan 24, 2015.

Joannemerc - Just to get you pointed in the right direction, here's a couple generalizations that apply to food and wine.

Red wine - Typically goes well with most types of beef. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon and a nice Rib Eye cooked medium rare will almost always pair up nicely. Darker meats go with darker wine. Red wine may often pair up nice with pork as well. Honey ham for example.

Red wine will typically pair up well with pastas having a red marinara type sauce (Tomato base sauce). For example, lasagna with a marinara style meat sauce and a Chianti or Merlot. Most foods that have darker colored sauces may par well with reds.

White wine - Typically goes well with chicken and fish. Lighter colored meat usually goes with lighter colored wine. For example, Macadamia crusted Mahi Mahi with a Chardonnay would probably be nice. Pork chops may pair well with whites also.

White wine will typically pair up well with pastas having white sauces (Cream base sauce). For example, Chicken fettuccine alfredo with a Sauvignon Blanc.

There's no set in stone guidelines to all this stuff because ultimately it's a matter of taste and preference, but if you were to order a nice steak with a riesling you might get a strange look from the waiter. 

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Reply by GregT, Jan 25, 2015.

But when reading winemakers notes, I need an explanation for tannins,  acidity, full body, soft, etc.  and whats the difference in ferrmenting in oak barrels, steel barrels etc.....  thanks.

Joanne - those are excellent questions.

Tannins - have you ever tasted black tea? Get a cup with a little bit of hot water, put in a tea-bag, steep it for a long time and then keep squeezing the bag against the side of the cup with a spoon. Taste that. It's going to be astringent - your tongue will stick to the roof of your mouth. That's tannin.

Acid - take a glass of water. Taste it. Put a little lemon juice in it. Taste it again. Then put a lot of lemon juice in it and taste it. That's acid.  It makes your mouth water. Not the same as tannin.

Full body - get some apricot nectar or something similar. Put a little bit into a glass of water. Taste that and then taste the original. It's not so much about taste as about the way it feels in your mouth. The watered-down version will taste watery. The other one will seem thicker, or more full-bodied.

Soft - that's just sweet and fruity without any acidity. Kind of like putting sugar into a glass of water. It will just be sweet. Add a little lemon and it balances out the sweetness. That's the key to a decent wine - balance.

Fermenting in oak - ignore that until you understand more about what you're tasting. It does actually matter, but don't sweat it right away.

Always feel free to ask more questions and good luck on finding out what you like.

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Reply by vin0vin0, Jan 25, 2015.

Joannemerc, it's kind of hidden now but there is info on this web site that can answer some of your questions. Here's one link to Wine 101.

And as GregT has shown, there are a lot of folks on this forum who are more than happy to share their wine knowledge.

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Reply by Really Big Al, Jan 25, 2015.

That Wine 101 link is quite helpful.  Thanks V V.

Joanne, it also helps to visit a few wineries and do the free / low cost tastings.  Most counter people know enough about the wine they are pouring to help you understand what's unique about each one.  Keep in mind that your sense of smell is even more important than how well your tongue can distinguish between sweet, sour, salty and bitter (possibly umami if you think there is a fifth sense of taste).  We are all different and with time and multiple tastings you will learn to recognize what you like and don't like in wine.

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Reply by outthere, Jan 25, 2015.

Bite into a gape seed. THAT'S tannin!

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Reply by GregT, Jan 25, 2015.

Especially from a nasty unripe Pinot Noir grape!

But let's not scare her off so fast!!

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Reply by Badge4, Jan 26, 2015.

Methinks folks are overcomplicating this daunting task with way too much information.

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Reply by JoanneMerc, Jan 26, 2015.

Got it.  With nor'easter happening in NY, we have plenty of time to have fun sampling. Thanks everyone.

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Reply by dvogler, Jan 26, 2015.

Joanne,

Were you overcome with information?  :)

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Jan 27, 2015.

If you can find a copy of the Wine Lovers Companion, a nice book small enough to fit in a handbag, it's a great place to start.  Excellent section about tasting terminology, a section on how to read wine labels--but you'll need a PhD to start decoding those German wines.  A to Z of terms, regions, grape varieties. you name it, so you don't have to ask yourself, is this wine named for the grape (Pinot Noir, say) or the region (Burgundy, where a red is probably made from Pinot Noir), you just look up the word in the main body.  Great book for beginners and pretty much up to wherever wine takes you.  If the term belongs in another section, it refers you there. 

Don't limit tasting to wineries--check out events at local wine shops. Or just buy a bunch of bottles that look interesting (you could buy Cali chardonnay from Napa, Sonoma and Santa Barbara, a vin de pays chardonnay from France, a lower-priced Burgundy, an Aussie chardonnay, for example) and just note what you taste.  Lemons, apricots, grass, herbs,salinity, stony notes, heavier body to lighter, whatever you notice--that's what becomes your reference point.  Pretty soon at least some of the stuff you see in reviews, on shelf talkers, wherever, will make some sense. 

Have fun, taste lots of stuff while you are snowed in, and come back and tell us how it's going!

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Reply by GregT, Jan 27, 2015.

Fox - that's not how it works in NYC. When there's a snowstorm, or actually any kind of storm, the first thing that disappears from stores is toilet paper.

"Gonna be a storm tonight."

"Damn! Better make sure we have extra toilet paper in the house!"

Nobody knows why, but that's just the way it is. It's been what, 200 years since anyone was really snowed in and unable to get out and about in NYC, but memories die hard. So unless she has wine in the house, she's out buying toilet paper and the wine be damned!

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Reply by dmcker, Jan 27, 2015.

Well Greg, back during the Oil Shocks of the '70s, with all the panicky consumer behavior they brought, guess what was the first thing to disappear from the store shelves in Tokyo? People were raiding any publicly accessible loo and tearing rolls off the rollers in the stalls before too long.

Not that bad during the 2011 Disaster. Water disappeared from store shelves first. Especially when there was a preliminary announcement about radiation seepage in the Tokyo water supply...

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Jan 27, 2015.

And I quote our OP herself, for our low comprehension readers*:

Reply by JoanneMerc, 15 hours ago.

 

Got it.  With nor'easter happening in NY, we have plenty of time to have fun sampling. Thanks everyone.

 

Her priorities are obviously different from yours, GregT.  Or she's just more organized.  In any case, that's possibly the nastiest thread drift ever.  I'd rather talk about shark infested waters. Or the problem with China starting a wine industry.  Or we can trash Bob, like we always end up doing, only to switch around and acknowledge the good he's done. 

*Kidding, totally kidding.  I skip through threads and miss the obvious all the time.

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Reply by Diego Andrés Díaz, Jan 27, 2015.

Now that were are in the subject, can someone explain to me what Finesse means?

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