So you’ve snuck away from the screaming kids and the snoring hubby for a night out with the girls. You head to the city to check out one of the twenty new bars that seem to be launched weekly with names like “clever big fella”, “Thomas the tank”… or “Little miss happy”.
You slink in wearing your much-too-skinny jeans and the heels you wore at your best friends wedding, back in 2007 – you’re feeling fresh, cool, in control, classy.
Then you look around.
The bar is filled with cultured 20-somethings who exude a rare class and charisma for their average age. Sophisticated wine types who not only look amazing, smell amazing, and have incredibly straight teeth, they also speak the eccentric, intimidating language of wine.
Did you miss something?
Memories of your early 20s flash before your eyes – drum and bass, glow sticks, boob tubes, Jägerbombs. Sophisticated was not the word.
So you sit down and take the wine list – in a confident move to counteract the voice inside your head telling you to run home, slink under the covers and watch an episode of Sex and the City.
You order an obscure “natural” McLaren Vale bottle of red, with a hipster name, that will undoubtedly smell like the armpits of the 40-year-old surfer/yoga teacher who made it – très chic.
The 12 year-old actor/sommelier you order it from eventually returns to the table with the bottle in question and asks if you'd like to “taste”.
Panic! You blush.
Yes, you’re happy ordering, but when it comes to the dreaded “taste test” you freak out.
So you swill and sniff, trying to pretend you have some idea of what you’re talking about. Nodding. Smiling. Awkwardly sipping. The pressure!
“Go away little twelve-year-old waiter,” you think.
“Leave me in peace to drink and talk about breastfeeding with my friends.”
We get it – we’ve all been there. But to be honest, figuring out a good wine from a bad one is all about trusting your instincts – just like sniffing out a good bargain at the Sheridan outlet store, or preparing the perfect cheese platter for your Sunday barbeques – you know more than you think you know.
But for those looking to impress, or at least learn the basics to avoid future heart palpitations caused by twelve-year-old soms, we’ve put together a glossary of commonly used wine terms to help you through a sea of wine waffle.
Ok, so we’re admittedly starting with the basics here, but just to recap, a ‘vintage’ refers to the year that the grapes were grown and harvested. This is important when choosing a wine, because certain vintages – mostly due to changes in climate, which impacts everything from the quality of soil, to water and sugar levels – are clearly better than others. So how do you know which vintages are the good ones? Our best advice would be to get to know your regions, if you like Barossa Shiraz, 2010 and 2012 were exceptional years. But don’t take our word for it. The master himself, James Halliday has put together a brilliant Australian Vintage Chart, which rates each region and each year out of 10. So just find what you like, get to know your numbers and enjoy being the most knowledgeable person at your next dinner party.
You’ve heard people say it, but what does it mean? Tannins are derived from the grape’s skin, stems and seeds and are a natural preservative for wine, playing a major role in its development and age profile. So while tannins are important, strong tannins can often detract from the taste of the wine, as they can cause a distinctly dry, sometimes even “paint stripper” feeling on your tongue and upper mouth (aka “palate”). It's a personal taste thing, some people love tannic wines, some people don’t. But if you want to sound cool, say, “mmmm heavy tannins” and people will nod.Legs
A far as wine terms go, this one is heaven. “Legs” are simply the streaks of wine that glide down the side of your glass after it’s been poured or swirled. The more streaks you see, the more alcohol content there is in the wine. So you can say things like “a little high in alcohol for me,” or “lots of legs, it’s going to be a short night” and people will think you’re wildly intelligent. Follow it up with words like “intensity” (dark in colour) and “complexity” (depth of flavour) and you’re basically a sommelier.
Another classic for the lover of wine terms is “aeration”. It not only sounds posh, the act of aeration itself is the ultimate in wine ceremony. It’s the simple process of introducing oxygen into the wine, which helps any good wine connoisseur to better taste and smell the “tannins”, “intensity” and “complexity” of the wine. This can be done through the classic swirl of a wine glass, or by opening a bottle of wine prior to serving it to “let it breathe”. If you want to up the ante, you can also employ the use of a wine decanter, which offers ultimate aeration and is particularly useful for older wines.
This one is tricky because it’s all about senses. Cork taint is a broad term referring to a wine fault, which can usually be detected by an undesirable smell or taste – think wet hessian bags and old socks. The trick is that while it’s commonly known to be caused by a tainted cork, it’s now also been proven to be the result of other factors, such as tainted barrels, storage and transport conditions. So while many bottles with Stelvin “screw caps” may be seen as not being corked, there is still a possibility that they could be. Our advice? Trust your senses and stay strong when it comes to snooty sommeliers – if you smell old socks, send it back!
If all else fails, invite the girls back to your place, crack a bottle of your favourite vino and have a laugh in the comfort of your own home. To keep your cupboards stocked for emergency entertaining join the CrackerUp Club today!