Washington Wine Report is an independent publication focused on bringing Washington wine to you and bringing you to Washington wine. Our goal is:
  • To help you select Pacific Northwest wines at a variety of price levels
  • To keep you up-to-date about the Northwest’s wineries, vineyards, and individuals
  • To help you plan trips to wine country
  • To connect you to the larger wine community

Sean P. Sullivan

2019 Tour Guide

Reviewed Wineries

How to Sound Smart Talking About Wine

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

One of the most frequent questions wine newbies ask me is how to sound like they know something about wine even though they don’t. Below are a few wine words guaranteed to stupefy and intimidate your wine novice friends.

Please note, if you stumble into someone who actually does know something about wine, the key is to intimidate him or her by making them feel like they don’t. Then you’re in the clear. Without further ado.


: “This wine has great minerality.”

: This is a big buzzword these days. Throw it around liberally. Used to describe a certain mineral quality of a wine, usually whites but increasingly reds. Remember, it doesn’t matter if the wine really does have great minerality as long as you say it does! If asked where the minerality comes from, tell them from the terroir.


: “I think the élevage of this wine really shows.”

: A French term that has no English equivalent. This one doesn’t get bandied about as much as terroir but together we can change that. Used to refer to steps in the winemaking process, particularly those in the cellar. However, since it’s a French term you can use it to refer to whatever you want, so make it your own.


: “Lots of garrigue on this wine!”

: Refers to bushy, fragrant plants common in Southern France, including lavender, rosemary, juniper, and thyme. Garrigue is the sum of them. If pressed on what exactly this means, simply tell people it’s hard to explain unless they’ve been to Southern France. If asked when you went, just gaze into the distance and say, “Ah…Provence!” and move on.


: “Really shows great typicity.”

: Means that the wine shows traits characteristic of the varietal. If pressed on what in particular makes it ‘typical,’ give a withering, condescending look like they should know. Making your friends feel uncomfortable talking about wine is key.


: “I think this wine might be BD don’t you?”

: Refers to biodynamic winemaking practices. If asked why you think the wine is biodynamic, note that it has a certain cow horn note to it. If asked what you think of biodynamics, ask what sign they were born under and share yours.

Carbonic Maceration

: “Smells like carbonic maceration doesn’t it?”

: This is a winemaking technique that results in very fruity aromas. Most associated with Beaujolais Nouveau but may also be seen in many reds - avoid using for whites.


: “Nice mousse on this wine.”

: Another French term – always use French terms when you can – this one refers to foam in a glass of sparkling wine when it is first poured. Avoid using for wines other than sparkling otherwise the jig’s up.

Good luck!

| edit post


  1. Chris Says:
  2. I heard a new one the other day... Veganic. Combination of vegetarian and organic. Sounds great! Until they said organic means no animal manure can be used in the growing of the vegetables. Hunh??!!???

    I really want to label my next wine Veganic though...

  3. Terry Says:
  4. Nice. I especially like the advice to simply "give a withering, condescending look like they should know." We all know how brilliant I am at that! :-P

  5. Hysterical. Nice one, Sean. :)

  6. Chris, love that one! Readers, please add, "Have you had any veganic wines lately?" to your arsenal.

  7. Ali Harvey Says:
  8. Awesome! If I hear anyone quote these lines I will just hope I don't have red wine in my mouth...

  9. Anonymous Says:
  10. "shifty" i love it

  11. itsgderic Says:
  12. You are a genius, dude.


Post a Comment

Your comment will be published after it has been moderated.


WWR TN Database

See my Washington Wine Report Tasting Note Database. Read an explanation of the fields here. FINAL UPDATE 6/13/2015. See current Wine Enthusiast reviews here.

Blog Archive