Wine Language

It’s a whole lot easier to speak in wine-talk than in book-talk, so if you get invited to a book club and you’re having a hard time keeping up with the metaphor, simile, narrative, irony language involved with discussing the actual book, bring a bottle of wine and get ready to wine-talk! So let’s get into it and next time we’ll do cheese-talk – after all, it’s much more fun to discuss things you can literally consume than things you can just read about!

Here they are – my WINE ABCs

A Acidity: this refers to the tart or sour feeling created by acids in the wine. High acidity gives you a sour or tart wine and low acidity gives you a flat wine.

B Basic is the entirely condescending term given to low cost starter wines at a winery/tasting. This is opposed to the premium offerings from the vineyard and while they tend to mean it with a hint of judgment, a good vineyard is as proud of their basic wines as they are their more premium selections.

Cask Differing between vineyards, wines and types of wines, a cask is a barrel or storage vessel (often made from oak, which sometimes you can even taste) used for fermenting or aging wine.

Decanter A decanter is entirely unnecessary in the wine drinking process, but it’s certainly a flashy way to demonstrate to your guests that you give a shit about wine. This proclaims to separate the sediment from the wine, creating a smoother more enjoyable wine experience. If this was so necessary, they’d do it before the bottled the stuff! But again, it looks good!

Eau de vie Could it be any more French to refer to wine as WATER OF LIFE – it’s laughably pretentious and if the French are anything, it’s laughably pretentious. I like to use this term when mocking the Europeans who gave us the idea of wine and then got mad at us for making it accessible.

Fine Wine Nope. Just no.

Ice Wine This is a Canadian type of wine wherein the wine is made from frozen grapes. I haven’t tried this yet because Canada is basically upper-America if we were communists, but it sounds delicious and I hope somebody else spends some money on it soon so I can try it!

Jug Wine Otherwise unspecific table wine. Usually it’s pretty drinkable, pretty cheap, and pretty straightforward.

Kosher Wine This is for Jewish wine-lovers who prefer to keep a kosher diet. Obviously, I have no interest in it but it’s good to know that it exists.

Meritage This is an American Bordeaux made in California. It’s America’s answer to the invented French ownership of the whole wine industry. We can do it better. As evidenced by Meritage!

Nose Wanna sound like a real asshole at a wine-tasting? Talk about the NOSE of a wine. All this means is the aroma of the wine. “Oh this wine has the nose of oak” just means, it smells oaky.

Oenophile While they’re using latin to confuse you because the Intellectual Elite is even trying to take over the vocabulary of food in America – this just means “wine-lover.”

Port Port is a super-sweet syrupy Portugese wine imitated all over the world.

Rich This usually refers to a very flavorful very sweet wine.

Sparkling Fancy wines with bubbles are referred to as Sparkling in America – it’s our response to the Champagne and Processo words used in Europe to describe such a simple, delightful wine charged with gas.

Table Wine See Jug Wine

Vin/Vino French for wine. Use it whenever you would say “wine” but are committed to looking like the most well-read smug wine-lover at your gathering.

Cheese

It’s hard to even talk about wine without mentioning cheese. I love cheese, like most people do, and I love combining my love of American Cheese with my love of American Wine. Because I’m generally more into white wines, cheese is a great accompaniment because of how well they go together. And if you ever see someone serving cheese with red wine, rest comfortably in the fact that they’re just trying to hard to be controversial.

  • Hard Cheeses, like gouda, cheddar, parmesan and pecorino tend to pair better with reds (eye roll) so if you’re a little bit hoity toity – I’d advise buying a bottle of chianti, a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, a parmesan and a cheddar. It’s easy, it can be cheap, and it’s impressive.
  • If you prefer soft cheeses like camembert and brie, buy one of each, a sparkling white and a chardonnay. It’s delicious, bloomy, and an easy starter platter.
  • I am NOT a blue cheese lover, but maybe some of you are. If you insist upon serving blue cheeses keep in mind how pungent and strong they are – put them on their own damn plate. Grab a simple blue and a gorgonzola to pair with a Riesling and a port. It’s diverse, it stinks, and it’s a great pairing for after dinner.
  • And fresh cheeses are one of my favorites. These are spreadable soft cheeses that are not generally aged at all – hence “fresh.” I just love a ricotta with pinot grigio or a mozzarella with sauvignon blanc. These are great if all you’re having is hors d’oeuvres.

The fun thing about hosting book clubs or cheese clubs or wine clubs, etc, is the vagueness of the subject matter. There is no wrong answer regarding opinions so what you like and don’t like about a book, a cheese, or a wine is entirely valid as long as you have the language to back it up. Wine snobs tend to speak entirely in their own language sometimes and while it may sound pretentious and snooty up front, once you learn the language and get into it, you’ll enjoy hearing yourself speak so eloquently about wine! Next time, let’s go through some of the basics of wine language!

Wine Hangover

More on that wine hangover. To avoid letting it ruin your entire day, I have some suggestions that took me a full decade to find and another decade to convince myself to do. They work, trust me!

  1. Wake up early: this sounds like the worst possible option, but the sooner you get up and start taking care of yourself while getting back to a routine, the sooner your hangover will subside and the less it will interfere with your time.
  2. Get outside! Wherever you fell asleep is poisoned with the memories and smells of the night that provided your hangover. Go outside, if even just for a walk around the block, to get some fresh air and put things back into perspective. Don’t over-exert yourself. Just don’t give in to the desire to stay in bed all day long wallowing.
  3. Even if you’re so sick that you’re vomiting all day, drink water. Water is your body’s best friend and this is especially true while you’re suffering from symptoms of a hangover – which is basically just alcohol-related dehydration.
  4. Shower in cool water. This will jumpstart your metabolism and make you alert. This is perfect for right after your little walk. If you follow these four steps, you should be feeling better by 10am rather than just waking up and realizing what poor shape you’re in.
  5. DON’T LISTEN TO YOUR IMPULSES and eat greasy food or have hair of the dog. Eat healthy protein-rich easy-to-digest breakfast like oatmeal or a protein shake.
  6. If you have to go out into the world an DO STUFF, do all of the above and then have a cup of coffee, a 20-minute caffeine nap, and then get up and get yourself ready for the day. The hangover portion of the day will drift away into your memory of what could have been!

And please be sure to drink wine responsibly. I think a big reason people are so proud of their wine-knowledge is that it’s the most acceptable form of alcoholism in America. Because I don’t want to get sued for your poor choices (although if you do decide to sue me, may I recommend these lawyers in Gulfport, MS), I’d like to remind you of some safety precautions when out drinking: 1. Don’t drink and drive, 2. Drink water, 3. Keep yourself surrounded by responsible drinkers, and 4. Anytime you have to make a significant choice while drinking, type it into your Notes in your phone first – if it’s actually a good idea, seeing it written down will reinforce that; if it’s a bad idea, seeing it written down will help you sober up and get yourself home!

Wine in Cans

On the radio today they were discussing why bottles remain the best wine receptacle because of the historical significance of the bottle, its reusability, how it keeps the wine and/or lets it age depending on its needs, and the benefits of the cork. And then last night, I met a girlfriend for a drink and when I ordered a glass of bubbles, they delivered it to me in a can! A CAN! IT was delicious! So I’ve been doing some wine-in-a-can research!

Cans are lightweight, cheap, recyclable and great for wines that don’t need to age – and what is the real benefit of letting wine age in the first place?! Further, canned wines are typically light, fresh, fruity and fizzy – those are my favorite wine adjectives!

  • Infinite Monkey Theorem is a delicious wine in a can and the can itself is a conversation starter! This wine is made in Denver and they offer a white, red, moscato, pink and a pear cider. This is a delicious light sweet wine to be enjoyed in good company at the beginning of an evening!
  • Union Wine Company’s Underwood wine in a can is a half of a bottle of wine IN ONE CAN so that is a good one to carry around a party where you know nobody but want to appear affable while getting a suitable buzz going. It’s juicy, fruity, with hints of strawberry and cherry. It’s delicious. Pick up three next time you’re at Whole Foods! And this one is made in Oregon so you don’t have to worry about funding secret European takeover plans when buying this guy! 😉
  • Fiction by Field Recordings is delicious bubbly wine so it gives you that satisfying CRACK when you open it. They make this one in California and if you like the bubbles, you’ll love the sauvignon blanc!

One trick I advise as you explore your wine palate is to match your wine intake with water intake every evening you spend out consuming. A wine hangover is a special kind of beast that can take up an entire Sunday or Wednesday. Usually it entails headaches, exhaustion, feelings of disgusting-ness, stomachache usually accompanied by vomiting, hunger which cannot be cured due to the vomiting, and sensitivity to sound, lights and odors.

To avoid this, I advise matching your wine intake with water intake in real time. So for every 6-ounce glass of wine, drink at least 6 ounces of water. Inconvenient, yes. But necessary. And try to eat an entire meal to accompany your wine – this will mitigate hangover and also stop you from becoming too drunk by surprise.

Whites

There are some brilliant wineries in Michigan, if you can believe it, so while Napa may hold the wine designation for the United States, Michigan is sneaking around in the background selling some delicious wines to goo American Midwestern folk.

  • Chateau Chantal Winery and Inn in Traverse City is a beautiful old vineyard run by a former priest and nun – so you don’t have to worry about paying for questionable values. You can stop by and do a full tasting for about $5 but I recommend their Naughty White. I love the name! And I love the taste – it’s fruity and floral and aromatic. It’s a perfect summer wine and adding an ice cube or two certainly doesn’t dilute the complex flavors!
  • Round Barn is right between Chicago and Holland so it’s a perfect road trip stop in Baroda. Their chardonnay (too expensive at $21.99, but for special occasions or weddings maybe) is creamy and buttery and has the BODY of a red wine with the fruity taste of a white wine. It’s the best of both worlds! I advise drinking this one on its own rather than with ice or spritzer. It’s just too expensive to be mixed up!
  • Fell Valley is another one in Southwest Michigan – there seems to be some correlation between the Lake Effect and the climate in Southwestern Michigan that suits grape growing. This shop has sparkling wines, reds, specialties (too expensive) and fruity wines. The fruit wines are TO DIE FOR with blueberry, blackberry, raspberry and cherries. Careful though! You don’t want to end up with blue teeth!

Whites are a little better suited for ladies nights, book club meetings, brunches and casual gatherings. There’s something light and carefree about white wine, plus it’s served cold which is just more pleasant than red which is served at room temperature. If I MUST drink red (besides a cab, which I enjoy immensely) I’ll often chill it first just so that it goes down a little easier.

Red wine may contain more antioxidants to encourage its heart-healthy qualities, but it’s also higher in calories. White wine may benefit the lungs (according to google, I have no idea why) but it’s worse for your teeth. So this decision is best left to your personal tastes – and like everything else, don’t overdo it. Everything in moderation!

Reds

I like red wines infrequently, they’re a little heavy for me. They just feel dense and I can’t drink them very quickly. But if I’m catering to a friend or guest who loves red, I have a few favorites. And because I’m catering to someone else’s (less superior) tastes, I won’t spend more than $10 on a bottle of red wine – so like $25 for a box. I get a lot of flack from bottle-snobs, but I neither see nor taste any convincing reason to believe that wine from a bottle is inherently better than wine from a box.

  • Bandit makes different sizes of their wine juice boxes and they produce pinot grigio, chardonnay, merlot, cabernets and a red blend – all made in sunny California. Their cabernet sauvignon tastes like berries and wood and I usually offer it to people to accompany red meat. The merlot has a much more powerful taste, I can barely swallow it. And the red blend is the fruitiest of the three – so it’s the one I’ll choke down when/if I have to!
  • Big House is another good California wine that sells its wine in boxes. They make a Pinot Noir that I tried at my friend Sharon’s place once. It has a real cherry finish – it’s almost like drinking alcoholly juice!
  • Black Box – also of California – makes a super flavorful Shiraz. It’s like cherry and currants and vanilla and wood – a perfect complement to a filet mignon.

Next time you’re picking things up at Trader Joe’s, take a swing through their wine aisle. They carry some of my favorite boxed wines and their sales associates are quick with a recommendation. They also have taste tests every few days so you’re not tricked into buying something that they tell you will taste chocolatey and then you get it home and it tastes toxic.

On the radio show this morning they were begrudgingly praising boxed wines for things like environmental considerations, packaging benefits to the wine, and ease of transport. They made all of these observations with a complete sense of “slumming it.”

Don’t let the mainstream media convince you that wine in a box is somehow of less class than a bottle of wine. The different is minutia. And if you’re really concerned about serving wine out of a box at a gathering, make a stop at the local Good Will or Salvation Army and buy a carafe. Serving wine out of a carafe is a little silly and only seems classy because of the vaguely European vibe of it, but if you’re concerned bout it – here’s an option.

Bubbles

This morning, Wine Talk Radio was spewing more of this Champagne/Prosecco propaganda. Champagne is a bubbly wine from the Champagne region of France made with chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinor meunier grapes. If you’ve never heard of those grapes, that’s fine, neither have I. The grapes are not what’s important. Champagne tends to have about 130 calories per glass and a 12% alcohol by volume content. Champagne is made using the Traditional Method. They were suggesting a few different options of Champagne, with the least expensive bottle they suggested costing $35. That’s insane and further proves my theory that the American intellectual elite is basically just doing marketing for international imports. If this doesn’t encourage international terrorism than I just don’t know what does!

They also discussed Prosecco which is the same thing as Champagne but made in Italy using the Tank Method.  The average bottle of Prosecco will cost you about $14, which is a little more affordable than the Champagne. I always knew the French were snooty.

This is America, land of the free. We have our own damn sparkling wines to drink. I suggest the Carefoot Bubbly Pink Moscato California Champagne for about $10. It has peach, honey and citrus flavors with a light sweetness. To me, it tastes like liquid cotton candy! I’ve had some sips of Champagne and Prosecco and found it to be dry, bitter and not sweet at all! What’s the point of drinking something that tastes lots of different adjectives for BAD!

There are a few things I pay attention to when picking out a sparkling wine, mostly price, but also the following things:

  • Country – I want American made products because I’m a patriot so if you’re going out and spending $35 on a French bottle of champagne just because society told you that French is better, then you are an embarrassment to our country.
  • Color – I like pink and amber colored sparkling wines because the less coloring they have, the less sweet they tend to be. Pink wine often just has some red wine in it which makes it richer and prettier!
  • Flavor: Someone once described their favorite champagne to me as “dry” which I found to be utterly ridiculous considering liquid is WET by nature! I like sweeter wines which will be listed as “sec” or “semi-sec” on foreign bottles. Stay away from these and stick with the bottles with labels in English.