Big, buttery, structured, oaky—wine terms can be a pain. Some wine geeks are so into the descriptions that they lose the purpose—to understand. Wine writers, present company included, use terms that are as foreign to the average drinker as the wine they are trying to describe. I had a wine novice smell a wine and he said it smelled like grape Bubblicious. Perfect, if you get the analogy. Problem is, too many wine terms are counterintuitive or describe subtleties that untrained palates can’t recognize. I’m making a renewed effort to stick to terms that make sense without explanation. This column, though, is devoted to wines that evoke those common but obtuse wine terms.
This month’s selections are available at The Wine Market, 720 Main St., Mendota Heights, 651-452-9463.
Buttery / Oaky / Rich
Rombauer Chardonnay 2006 (Carneros, California), $36.99
It’s all of the above. Rich means thick in your mouth. Buttery comes from lactic acid (the acid in butter) and adds a creamy flavor. Oak on the nose is from months in oak barrels. It smells like fresh cut logs. This wine has the fruit (pear and peach) to hold up all of those components and would be a treat with lobster or crab.
Tropical / Herbal / Clean
Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (Marlborough, New Zealand), $18.99
This sauvignon blanc tastes like pineapple and basil with great citric acid. Clean is how your mouth feels after you swallow the wine. Think tropical, herbal, clean while drinking this and you will forever be able to identify sauvignon blanc from New Zealand.
Earthy / Spicy
Domaine de Cassan Gigondas 2004 (Gigondas, Rhone Valley, France), $22.99
70% grenache, 25% syrah, 5% mourvedre. Earthy because it smells like dirt or stone and mushrooms—and I mean that in a good way. The spice tastes are pronounced: pepper, nutmeg, and licorice. Great with a big pork chop. (Vintage no longer available; 2005 in stock.)
Big / Tannic / Dry
Dry Creek Meritage 2003 (Dry Creek Valley, California), $24.99
52% merlot, 41% cabernet sauvignon, 3% malbec, 2% cabernet franc, 2% petit verdot. Meritage is California’s word for a Bordeaux blend. Big means full-bodied and full of flavor, heavy perhaps. Dry means no sweetness or sugar, but dry wines can taste of fruit. This wine has flavors of currant and black raspberry. Tannins are the acids that make your cheeks pucker. This wine needs red meat so those tannins can go to work on the fat and protein and not your jaw.
Bill Coy runs Vintage U, which organizes winetastings, classes, and events for corporate groups, wine enthusiasts, and the general public. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.