Your server arrives at the table. She has the wine list. Actually, it’s more of a wine book. She gives everyone the “who should I give this to?” quizzical look, and then she follows the direction of everyone’s gaze. They’re looking at you.
It’s a nightmare scenario for the uninitiated. You know as much about wine as you do about nuclear fusion. Wine comes from grapes, and fusion is why the sun is hot. You’ll get through this. You choose a Merlot because it’s … well, red, and most of your fellow diners are opting for a steak. The server returns with the wine, uncorks and pours a small amount into your glass. You’re supposed to taste it. That much you know. Now, what?
Go ahead and taste it!
If your knowledge of wine is next to nothing, check out our guide for beginners:
The first thing that comes to mind
At a basic level, there are really only two things to know and remember:
There is no wrong answer.
Those two steps are easy enough to follow. What comes next might not be, chiefly because it seems like we should have a response on par with the wine experts. Leave those complicated descriptions to oenophiles (connoisseurs of wine) and sommeliers. Here’s why:
You might take a sip of a red wine and discover, to your, surprise the first thing that comes to your mind is … cement! As in, the stuff that sidewalks are made out of. No, the wine itself doesn’t taste like cement. It’s delicious. But nevertheless, the thought of cement jumps right into your head.
Give yourself high praise if something like this occurs. What you’ve detected is the wine’s terroir. The unique soil composition of a geographical area contributes to the taste of the wine created by the grapes grown there.
The grapes for some of the world’s best-regarded wines grow in areas where the soil absorbs minerals from the limestone beds below. Lime is a crucial component in cement. Conjuring up the memory of the smell of a sidewalk on a hot summer afternoon after tasting a certain wine’s terroir makes perfect sense.
Of course, the earth isn’t the only thing flavoring a great wine. Wines are sweet or fruity; light or full-bodied; and often have traces of delightful flavors like vanilla and lemon grass.
And that’s why there’s nothing wrong with being honest about expressing the first thing that comes to mind after you taste a glass of wine. Embrace it.
You’re in the grape’s world now.