Snooty as they may sound, basic wine descriptors can come in handy, whether you're visiting a winery, hosting a wine tasting, or searching for a picnic-perfect wine. After all, many common wine terms allow you to articulate what your wine preferences are — light-bodied or full-bodied, earthy or fruit.
Beyond basic wine terminology, however, there are a number of adjectives used by wine industry folk that — let's face it — can be hard to understand. (What does "chewy" mean, anyway?) To help us wade through the confusing world of winespeak, we subjected our friend, Food & Wine executive editor Ray Isle, to a lightning round of seemingly cryptic wine terms. Here are his stream-of-consciousness answers.
- Chewy: "Chewy tends to mean a pretty big wine, also with tannins, and a fair amount of tannic structure."
- Clean: "Clean means, to me, not flawed. It could mean two things, but straight up: clean means not stinky, not full of weird, off aromas. If the wine-making is clean, there's no weird funkitude to it. In a metaphoric way, clean can also mean straightforward — not simple, but no odd corners sticking out. Not necessarily not complex, but not jarring. (Sometimes a wine that's really great will have a characteristic that you think, 'That's kinda odd. It's really great, but that's kind of odd.') Clean is direct; to me, it really means no wine-making flaws."
- Finesse: "Finesse in a wine is essentially someone trying to say there's a quality of delicacy to it, a nuanced nature to the wine. It's not clumsy."
"Fleshy," "nervy," "racy," and more terms, after the jump.