Wine terms

More exploration of wine terms:

• Structure. Also called “backbone,” it is not a flavor but the relationship of components—acidity, tannin, alcohol, glycerol. When balanced, structure is good. When one element dominates, it is bad. Wines made for aging often have pronounced structure—tannin can dominate cabernet sauvignon or Barolo when wine is young, but tannin will mellow and the structure come into balance if you lay the bottle down for some years. Wines without structure do not age well.

• Balance. When components of wine—fruit, secondary flavors, aroma, structure—are in harmony, wine has balance. A very good thing. Balanced wines have elegance and completeness. They are not backward.

• Backward. Wine that is young and not showing well is backward because the structure, particularly tannins or acidity, dominate and hide fruit flavors and other qualities. Sometimes you can save backward wine by decanting. With bottle age, the wine may come around and potentially be delightful, but—sadly—this is no sure thing. Backward generally is not good, but cross your fingers and pray.

• Bottle shock. Wine is a living thing, and when it get jostled and disturbed by travel—be it in a container ship or truck or car trunk—it can respond negatively, much the way you feel with jet lag. The result can be loss of aroma and flavor, which is what happened to the white wine from California in the Judgment of Paris. Fortunately, wine heals with a little R&R—and that healing allowed the Château Montelena Chardonnay to win the 1976 Judgment of Paris and put American wines on the world stage. It is why the movie about this event is titled “Bottle Shock.”

• Intellectually satisfying. Wine term associated with Robert Parker; it refers to balanced, complex wines with depth and character. Don’t worry much about this; Parker only uses this description on wines we mere mortals can’t afford to buy.

Tasting notes:

• Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2013: Ripe fruit, vivid flavor, will please many palates. $29-34

• Ferrari Perlé Brut Trento DOC 2008: Superb sparkling, magnificent perlage (bubbles), great price. $38

Last round: If anyone says you drink too much wine, stop talking to them. Who needs that kind of negativity?