Learning the Lingo

Wine scares many people. They envision snobbish wine store clerks, $200 bottles, and the need to know whether there are hints of chocolate, raspberry, or dirty old socks in the “bouquet.” The truth is that you don’t need to know much about wine to enjoy it; just find out which types of wines you like, then buy them. It may be handy when shopping at the wine store to know how to describe your preferences. Here are some words that can help:

Body: The viscosity of the wine
(a wine can be as thin as water or as thick as cream).

Big: High in alcohol.

Buttery: Having an aroma of butter or butterscotch.

Crisp: High in fruit acidity (in a positive way).

Fat: Full-bodied.

Flabby: Not enough acid.

Finish: The wine’s aftertaste.

Fruity: The fruit the wine is made from (the grape) or another fruit flavor is perceptible.

Hard: Too tannic (astringent and bitter due to a high level of compounds called tannins).

Light: Light-bodied.

Oaky: Can taste the oak imparted from aging in an oak barrel.

So which wines do you drink with which foods?

Forget the old “rules” about white with fish and red with meat. If it works, it works. Here are some guidelines, courtesy of

  • Match light wines with light foods(this can either be a light white or a light red wine).
  • Try highly acidic wines with acidic or tart foods.

  • Try a wine with just a touch of sweetness (called off-dry wine) with savory foods that have a bit of sweetness to them or spicy foods for balance.
  • Aim for less tannic wines with bitter foods and more tannic wines with astringent foods.

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