Like any wine enthusiast, I've spent many years learning about wine via wine tasting, but also through reading. It has taken over a decade to amass my library on wine regions, winemaking, and critic reviews. Unlike Napa and Sonoma, which I can visit every day of the week, books were particularly helpful in teaching me about Bordeaux and Burgundy, the top of the wine "food chain" and an ocean away. Some books were incredibly insightful, and some were less so. The books that covered a single geographic regions tended to be my favorite.
The French have ensured their wine vocabulary remains in tact, which means if you drink French wine you will need to learn even more wine lingo. These are especially helpful if you are trying to decifer a wine bottle label. Here are our top French terms we use:
The difference between the terms "Climat" and "Lieu-Dit" has stumped me for years. They are both defined as "plots of land," often the same plots of land with the same names, but when do you use each of the terms? Even during my two week visit to Burgundy I still couldn't get a common answer to my inquiry on these definitions.
Forty years ago Napa and Sonoma winemakers were just a bunch of unknown farmers to most of America and the rest of the world. If you wanted a good bottle of wine, you would typically choose something French off the restaurant wine list. Then, in one Time Magazine article that highlighted Napa Valley vintners as winners in a prestigious, blind tasting in Paris, France, California wine was instantly on the world map and demand has been growing steeply ever since.
Many vineyard sites, especially the top tier french chateaux and domaines, describe their soil type as calcareous clay. Calcareous is actually an adjective meaning "mostly or partly composed of calcium carbonate." Other synonyms for calcium carbonate include lime or chalk. Due to the low acidity level of calcium carbonate, the calcareous clay soil is quite alkaline compared to other soil types. The biggest benefits of calcareous soil are the special nutrients it supplies to the grapes, which make them grow better and sweeter.
Using erobertparker.com and learnaboutwine.com, I've complied this glossary terms to help you truly dive deep into the minds of critics and other serious wine enthusiasts when they use words that are beyond our everyday vocabulary, at least in the context of wine. And, in all honesty, it helped me when I was first starting out in this business - I referenced it almost daily - because, as with every industry, wine has its own lingo.
There are many important factors to take into consideration in regards to proper long term wine storage, some of which are listed below. These factors also apply to short term wine storage, but to a lesser degree of course. While not everyone has the means to address each of them, striving to address as many as possible (especially in the case of long term storage) will greatly enhance the enjoyment of collecting and drinking your wine.
Light And Vibration
Spending a day in wine coutry visiting a handful of wineries is lovely, but if you really want to get a large variety of samples under your belt to help hone your palette then maybe you would like to try a wine tasting event.
Most are open to the public, for a fee, and feature usually hundreds of wineries, each pouring approximately 1 ounce tastes. The events typically have themes, so you can really get a sense for the unique nuances of each varietal or region.
Wineries, especially in Europe, produce larger and smaller format bottles than the typical 750ml bottle size that most people are familiar with purchasing. The larger sizes are ideal for groups and special events. The smaller sizes offer conveniences for individual servings. If you have ever been curious about what sizes have ever been offered and the industry terms for those sizes, here is a succinct chart.
There are many different wine critics and bloggers, all diffusing their opinions on the quality and features of the world's wine offerings. While it is impossible for us to follow them all, we do consult the following critics and we often publish scores and notes from the top 4 critics listed below.
WA - Robert M. Parker, Jr. (Wine Advocate)
WS - Wine Spectator
ST - Steven Tanzer (International Wine Cellar)
BH - Allen Meadows (Burghound.com)
MB - Michael Broadbent
CC - Clive Coates
Have you ever seen odd letters in the wine description, either on our website or another's? Most likely those are condition codes, which are conveniently (mostly) universal for US and Europe. So, if you want the inside scoop on what they mean, here you go: