Ditch Your Fancy Wine Vocabulary To Shop Like A Pro

Buying wine can be intimidating, even for folks who know the ropes. There is nothing worse than dropping a pretty penny on a bottle, popping it open, and realizing that it tastes nothing like what you were in the mood for. However, when you walk into a wine shop, you are not alone. The wine professionals who work at the store are there to help — and using the right kind of language to describe what you are looking for helps them help you.

Jerome Noel, general manager of taste56 located in Brooklyn, told Food Republic, "I would avoid using words like 'fruity' or 'sweet' or 'dry' because those words mean different things to different people." Sometimes people say they want something sweet — meaning there is a higher sugar content in the wine like a riesling — but they actually want something fruity like a chenin blanc. A wine like a Malbec may be considered sweet compared to a cabernet sauvignon, but the buyer might be after something with more sugar like Lambrusco.

Noel instead recommends using "words about the richness of wine — 'light' or 'big' or 'rich' or 'full' — and then go from there. And do not be afraid of getting creative — 'zippy' or 'unctuous' or 'powerful' are all very helpful." Do you want a wine that feels weightless on the palate or something that coats the mouth and lingers? Words like thin, watery, thick, or viscous can be helpful in describing the body of the wine.

Be as specific as possible

If putting words to the flavors is a challenge — as it is for many people — Jerome Noel suggests sharing which bottles you have enjoyed in the past. The grape, region, and producer give important clues as to what the wine tasted like. "Most wine professionals can translate a producer or region to find a bottle that fits," Noel explained. For example, cabernet franc grapes typically yield a wine with zesty acidity, medium body, and a distinctive bell pepper taste that comes from the aroma compound methoxypyrazine. Wines from the Canary Islands often have a strong minerality and smokiness due to the volcanic soil. Wine producer Giulia Negri is known for paying tribute to the iconic Italian Barolo wines her family helped to put on the map, but with a modern and inventive lens.

Noel also recommends getting specific about why you're buying a particular bottle of wine. If you are putting together a raw bar for a dinner party, the shopkeeper may recommend a wine from Muscadet, France made with melon de Bourgogne grapes — a light, salty, and acidic wine that makes for a classic pairing with seafood. If you are buying a bottle of wine as a gift for a friend or business associate, your best bet is grabbing a crowd-pleaser like a classic French Champagne. Have a conversation, and accurately describe your wine budget while shopping, so you can find a bottle perfectly suited for your needs.