I used to mentally roll my eyes into my forehead when I heard people talk about what they tasted in a glass of wine: wet rock, black cherry, tobacco, candied lemon peel, “jammy, red fruits”, oak, leather, clay, EARTH. It all seemed so contrived, RIDICULOUS, but I’d smile across the table with a slightly purple stained upper lip and nod—all the while silently thinking, “OooOKay. Tastes like wine to me.”
Despite what most wine guides would lead you to believe: there’s actually no definitive list of What Wine Tastes Like. That list doesn’t exist. We taste what we know. Sometimes when I taste a wine it brings back a specific memory from a transformative trip, other times it’s a flashback to my childhood. It doesn’t have to be all tannin, acidity, and finish.
- It’s like licking the outside of a peanut shell served table side at a roadhouse.
- Slightly old Bubbilicious gum from my grandma’s purse.
- Clementines and honeydews.
- Bruschetta on a patio in Italy in the summer.
- Sweet, buttery, breadiness of just-heated King Hawaiian Rolls.
- The aftertaste of watermelon fruit-by-the-foot (if you know you know).
- Steak juice.
- Flat coke that’s been sitting in the sun with a spicy candy in it (Fine. This was Fernet.)
- Dried apricots.
- Olive Tapenade.
- Green strawberries.
- Biting into a peach fresh off a roadside truck.
- Running through a forest in the autumn.
- Strawberry soda like they served at Elementary school Honor Roll parties.
- Eating a tart lemon bar at the peak of an alpine hike.
- Like popping a snap pea in half.
The plastic champagne flutes of my youth might’ve been filled with the juice from a cold red SqueezeIt, that too sweet purple drink that came in a plastic container resembling a barrel, or that barely citrus-flavored fizzy drink my mom kept in the fridge called Diet Splice (during that phase where we were trying to get off Diet Coke). We ate thawed out enchilada TV dinners on the patio paired with pitchers of tea tinged with the taste of Sweet N Low, and our favorite meals out were at places like Macaroni Grill, Red Lobster, and Catfish City.
It’s nothing fancy, but it’s where I come from and I love it.
- First and foremost: not all white wines taste the same, not all reds taste the same. Nor rosés. Nor orange wines. Nor bubbles. Break down the barriers you’ve built for yourself and EXPLORE.
- Be creative. Think about what you’re drinking. Write it down. Who cares how weird or irreverent it is? Use your ~ imagination ~
- If you want to taste more, TASTE more. Go to wine bars, go to wine tastings, go to wineries. And don’t just try wine, try new foods and flavors that you’re unfamiliar with. Smell the salty air more fully when you’re at the beach. Take in nature when you’re on a hike. Expand your points of reference at any given opportunity.
- Next time you’re sharing wine with your friends go around the table and see what kinds of tasting notes ya’ll come up with. Me and four friends did this on my 27th birthday and it was a real hoot (then again, maybe that’s because we tasted almost the whole wine list at Bottle House).