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The Language of Wine

Posted by perle0 on 2007-03-06 13:10:28 (4109 views)

An article in The Capital Times of Madison, WI explores the difficulties of communicating about wine without a truly shared vocabulary. An example:

One of the biggest challenges facing wine drinkers is adequately describing the "texture" or "body" of the wine they enjoy. A wine that's medium-bodied will seem heavy to some drinkers, and light to others. For the sake of convenience, Dahl often equates the body of a specific wine with the way milk feels in the mouth.

"A light-bodied wine will feel like skim milk," she says, "while a medium-bodied wine feel more like two-percent. Wines with a heavier body are more like whole milk."

It's a problem for wine merchants--what to do when a customer comes in looking for a certain type of wine experience (or looking to avoid one), but doesn't have the shared vocabulary of wine tasting to communicate their desires. Aside from offering frequent classes to expand this shared set of more-or-less objective terminology, how do wine sellers deal with this?

The first step is understanding which terms are most likely to be confused, and then questions and comparisons must follow to determine what exactly the customer means. When they say "sweet," do they really mean it? And for them, is it a good quality or a bad one? Sweetness can be measured scientifically, but only the drinker can decide whether it's a desireable quality in a given wine. And most consumers don't have the apparatus at home to measure sugar content.

Read the article.


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