Janet Urquhart: A few tips from my private reserve
Suppose your plan to slip the Aspen Food & Wine Classic pass off a tipsy tourist who’s slumped in the splendor of the new Wagner Park restrooms actually works.You make a run for the Grand Tasting tent while your victim is still admiring one of the gleaming porcelain thrones. Now what?Let’s face it, if you’ve never bothered to buy a corkscrew because all your favorite vintages come in a box with a spigot, you’re never going to pass for a connoisseur. Not to worry.Wine tasting isn’t really about wine. It’s about pompous pronouncements. A little vocabulary goes a long way. But remember, what you don’t say is almost as important as what you do say. A simply glossary of handy terms, a few pointers on proper decorum and the phone number of AA are all you need.You may want to clip and save the following for easy reference.Wine-Tasting TerminologyBlanc – Literally “white” in French, the term is used to denote a white wine. You might thoughtfully note the aroma of a chenin blanc and praise its delicate, floral bouquet, but resist the urge to remark, “I’m drawing a blanc.”Cab – Wine talk for cabernet sauvignon, a popular red wine. You might politely ask a vintner to pour you a cab, indicating you’d like to sample a cabernet sauvignon. This is not to be confused with another request – “Pour me into a cab” – which means your tongue is fuzzy, your legs are rubber and you need a ride home. (Note: Resist the urge to sing, “Come to the cabernet, old friend,” lest you be gazed upon with contempt. Take it from someone who knows.)Muscat – A grape varietal used in the sweet dessert wine, muscatel, which you may recall from your younger days, when quite possibly, you drank too much of it and threw up. You probably won’t find any muscatel in the tent, which is probably a good thing, since you won’t be tempted to hum a few bars of “Muscat Love.”Riesling – A German white wine. It’s reezling, (not riceling) .If it sounds like a Chinese side dish when you pronounce it, you’re making a fool of yourself. In fact, if you’re worried about looking foolish, you might want to steer clear of German wines altogether, especially after you’ve had a few. Nothing but humiliation can come from trying to discuss the finish of a gewurztraminer after sampling all the wines of the Rhine.Syrah – Another one of those red wines, it is easily distinguishable from, say, the white ones. (Hint: “Que syrah, syrah” is yet another witticism that’s better left unsaid.)Valpolicella – This is either an Italian wine or an Italian-made bicycle.OK, now all you need to pass yourself off as a wine snob are a few descriptive phrases. The trick is not to know a lot about wine, but to know a lot of adjectives, or one all-purpose one, like “sublime.”Swirl a chianti in your glass, take a thoughtful sip and pronounce it “a rich, full-bodied wine of remarkable depth with a fine, lingering finish.”Compliment the “hints of vanilla and spice” in that Rioja. Savor the “lingering sensation of lightness” in the Rueda. Note the opulence of a “big, generous Burgundy.”The aroma of a Beaujolais? Go for “fruity, with a pleasing earthy undertone.”Try declaring something “subtly provocative” or “insouciant, yet seductive.” Just try to avoid getting slapped.My personal favorite is “jammy and herbaceous.”
“2023 predicted to be the Vintage of a Lifetime in Napa Valley,” proclaimed the headline this week in a press release sent out by the Napa Valley Vintners, the trade organization that represents the growers and producers in America’s most famed wine region. If there is anyone more optimistic than winemakers, it is the group that represents them.