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Wine Snobbery Selected Entries (Page 2)

NOTE: Given the complexities and interconnectedness of the Snob universe, cross-references between entries are common and are spelled out in CAPITAL LETTERS for easy identification.

Enoteca. Italian word meaning wine bar or wine shop, increasingly used in restaurant titles and signage by chef-proprietors eager to push Italy’s ever-more-chic wines, often in 250-ml carafes tweely referred to as “quartinos.”

Epiphany wine. Any wine that, once tasted, is so utterly transportive and life-altering that it transforms a civilian into a full-on Wine Snob—and even, in extreme cases, into a Wine Snob who becomes a full-time wine professional. Both hobbyist and professional Snobs enjoy regaling colleagues with their epiphanic tales of discovery. I was 19. I had a girl with me. Father was away. I was forbidden to go down into his cellar, but we did anyway, uncorked a bottle, and I took a swig that blew my mind. Can’t remember the girl’s name, but the wine was a ’50 Lafleur—my epiphany wine.

Extract. The amount of solid material in a wine, a greater presence of which makes the wine darker, more viscous, and fuller of mouthfeel. The in-the-know Snob, rather than calling a wine “full-bodied,” uses the more modish term “extracted.”

Finish. Snob term for aftertaste. A wine’s greatness is considered to be proportionate to the length of its finish. ROBERT PARKER actually includes the length of a wine’s finish in his ratings, usually measured in seconds, but sometimes, in especially Snobworthy moments, in minutes.

Fruit bomb. Modern-style purplish-red wine valued for its big, jammy flavor above all other considerations, such as STRUCTURE and long-term aging potential. The blame/credit for fruit bombs, which Snobs regard as crass, slutty “drink now” wines that don’t warrant serious consideration, is usually attributed to Australia, whose winemakers discovered a ready market in the 1990s for young Syrahs (or Shiraz wines, in OZ parlance) that taste like grape-infused butane.

Angelo GajaGaja, Angelo. Regal, slicked-back duce of Italian wine, known for his exquisite Barolos and Barbarescos adorned with austere black-and-white labels and priced in the same range as used Volvos and new MacBooks. A lionized figure given to theatrically Italian pronouncements, Gaja, who was born in 1940 to a Piemontese family that’s been in the wine business since 1859, muscled his way into the global wine elite well before most of his late-to-the-party Italian brethren, and has been making “modern,” BARRIQUE-aged wines of profound STRUCTURE since taking the reins of the business in the 1960s.

Garagiste. Frenchified term for an artisanal wine producer whose output is so small that his whole outfit is housed in his garage, or at least a building as small as a garage. Garagiste wines, no matter what their quality, are coveted by Snobs for the insiderist cachet they carry, and are thus usually scandalously overpriced. Though the typical garagiste wine comes from Napa or Sonoma, the movement’s spiritual home is Château Valandraud, one of the many tiny, anti-establishment properties in Bordeaux that wowed ROBERT PARKER with small-production, ultra-EXTRACTED wines aged in BARRIQUE.

Grape, the. Exceptionally pretentious synonym for wine or things related to wine; favored by Snobs prone to pontification. Son, permit me to school you in the ways of the grape.

Green. Pejorative slang term for an under-ripe wine, usually a red, that has flavors of green bell peppers and/or other salad produce. To suggest that a wine is green is to intimate that its grapes were either harvested too soon, picked from young vines, or the product of a poor vintage, all high crimes in the court of the Snob. It had a decent concentration, but I couldn’t get past how green it was on the nose.

Harlan EstateHarlan Estate. Ultimate cult winery, located in Napa and founded by real-estate developer and shrewd Snob-manipulator Bill Harlan. Harlan’s mailing-list-only, $200-a-bottle “estate wine,” a Bordeaux-style red crafted with help from the jet-setting consultant MICHEL ROLLAND, is more gossiped about than tasted—prompting feverish bidding whenever it pops up at such wealth-flaunting spectacles as the Napa Valley Wine Auction, held at the Harlan-built Meadowood Resort.

Judgment of Paris. Landmark 1976 blind tasting of French and Californian wines in which the nine judges, all of them French, voted a Napa Valley Chardonnay as the best of the whites and a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon as the best of the reds. The tasting, held in Paris and arranged by a young English wine-shop owner named Steven Spurrier, is considered the signal moment in which California wines “arrived,” thereby paving the way for the state’s oeno-industry boom, an explosion of boutique wineries with the gall to charge $60 for a Petite Syrah, and skyrocketing real-estate prices in Napa and Sonoma that forced locals who’d lived in those counties for generations to move elsewhere.

Juice. Grating hipster term for wine, used especially in the San Francisco Bay area, where younger, ostensibly hipper Snobs in the wine trade think that, by referring to wine as such, they are demystifying it for a grateful audience of Francophobes and reg’lar folk who will feel less intimidated if they think of wine as fermented grape juice. Except the very deployment of such insiderist terms serves only to intimidate civilians all over again.

Leather. Tasting term applied to complex red wines, usually flatteringly. For Wine Snobs, a belated justification for childhood oral fixations that involved book-bag straps and/or fringed cowboy vests.

Alexis LichineLichine, Alexis. Dapper, aristocratic, White Russian wine expert (1913-1989), credited with teaching flush postwar Americans to appreciate fine French wines while simultaneously pushing reluctant French winemakers to actually market their product to les Américains stupides. Best known for two authorative books, The Wines of France (1951) and Alexis Lichine’s Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits (1967), Lichine, whose family fled the Russian Revolution, initially made his name in the U.S. as Frank Schoonmaker’s deputy, and later ran his own importing company and his own Bordeaux estate, Château Prieuré-Lichine. A pomaded playboy, Lichine also achieved status as a Hollywood-gossip footnote by being one of the many husbands of the 1950s starlet and serial marrier Arlene Dahl.

Micro-oxygenation. Catch-all, cure-all winemaking technique hustled by highly paid consultants of the MICHEL ROLLAND ilk. The process involves introducing small, measured amounts of oxygen into a wine while it is still in a fermentation tank, a manipulation that results in softer tannins, deeper color, and a more NEW WORLD style. Hailed as a brilliant advance in winemaking at the time of its introduction in the early 1990s, the process is now decried by TERROIR-ists, who regard it with horror and cringe at a certain sequence in the documentary film Mondovino—in which Rolland emerges from his chauffered sedan and advises several different clients to use the process—as if watching the horse’s-head scene in The Godfather.

Minerality. Term for the perceived mineral content in a wine, suggesting in its user an implausibly intimate knowledge of the TERROIR in which the grapes are grown. Frequently used by professional tasters eager to showboat their inner geologist. This is a racy, soil-driven Sauvignon, with a flinty minerality that roots it in the Kimmeridgian limestone of Sancerre.

New World. Quaintly Columbian term used to describe wines produced outside of the “traditional” wine-growing regions of Western and Northern Europe. Though the United States is most readily identified with New World wines, the term also applies to the wines of Chile, Australia, and South Africa. New World wines are broadly thought of as fruitier and more alcoholic than OLD WORLD wines, owing to the hotter climates in which their grapes are grown and the preponderance of producers eager to please ROBERT PARKER.

Old-vine. Romantic viticultural signifier for wines wrung from the scant output of vieilles vignes, as the French refer to the most aged of grape plants. An older vine produces less fruit, and is thought to have reserves of nutrients in its thick, gnarly trunk, resulting in more CONCENTRATED grapes. When you drink those old-vine Ridge Zins, you’re tasting history in a bottle, bro.

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