I love wine, but not to the point of obsession. I have definite opinions on what I like and what I don't. I can drink a wine and figure out what food I would pair with it, and generally vice versa. But some wine language floors me. It’s hard to sort out useful technical terms from the connoisseurship-bluffing and status-inflating that anyone who neatly arranges unopened copies of Wine Spectator on their coffee table loves to indulge in.
Almost all the people I know who make, sell, or write about wine can talk about their passion like normal humans, both with and without the jargon. I want to make sure that if I’m discussing what I'm drinking I sound like them and not one of the boors.
So for months I’ve been talking to our MaggieDutton—who has taken the tests, sold the bottles, and set up her own cellar for aging wines—to help me sort through a few of the terms and issues that I can’t figure out on my own. “Make me a wine geek,” I told her. Being a media type, unable to come up with a single clever thought without yearning to bestow it upon the universe, I thought we should record Maggie’s lessons. Ergo:
Last Friday, she showed up in the Seattle Weekly International Wine Tasting Headquarters (yeah, sorry about the ringing phone a couple minutes in) with some professional tasting glasses and a few bottles from her cellar in order to teach me about the word “structure” and its many poetic variations. From here on out, when I hear, “Her 2003 Syrah had such a strong backbone” or “Pthah, that merlot had no structure. It was so flabby...” I can nod the knowing nod. Or snicker.