1 terroir (n.)
The concept that wine is an expression of a place (a vineyard’s soil composition and exposure in relation to the sun), a time (the particular atmospheric conditions in effect during a vineyard’s growing season or vintage) and grape character or typicity—a grape’s inherent flavor profile, in concert with its terroir and vintage. For more, see Kirsty Lang’s untranslatable here.
2 neck (n.)
The part of the wine bottle the cork is inserted into. When judging the evaporation of a very old wine, one measures it by how low the liquid is in the neck.
3 shoulder (n.)
Where the bottle curves. As with the neck, also a measure of evaporation.
4 fill (n.)
How much wine remains in a bottle after evaporation—neck? shoulder? below?
5 punt (n.)
A punt, also known as a kick-up, refers to the dimple at the bottom of a wine bottle. The various explanations for it include the possibility that it is a historical remnant from the era when wine bottles were blown using a blowpipe and pontil. The technique leaves a punt mark on the base of the bottle, so by indenting that point, the scar would not scratch a table or shelf or make the bottle unstable. And since a bottle designed with a flat bottom only needs a small imperfection to make it wobbly, the punt allowed for a larger margin of error.
The punt also consolidates sediment deposits in a ring at the bottom of the bottle, preventing most of it from being poured out with the wine. And! It increases a bottle’s strength, allowing it to hold the high pressure of sparkling wine or champagne better, as well as preventing it from resonating as much, thus making it less likely to shatter during transportation. But wait, there’s more! It allows bottles to be more compactly stacked end to end, so that they don’t roll around and break in, say, a ship’s hold. Punts also make a bottle easier to hold while pouring, and easier to clean before being filled with wine.
6 ah so (n.)
A weird wine opener that usese two blade-like bits of metal, not unlike little knives, that shunt down the sides of the cork. This device is used with really old bottles whose corks are in danger of disintegrating. Very few know how to manipulate a cork remover like this anymore.
7 stelvin (n.)
A fancy word for a screw-top closure, used to ensure that a wine is free of cork taint.
8 corked (adj.)
The chief cause of cork taint is the presence of the chemical compounds 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA) and/or 2,4,6-tribromoanisole (TBA) in the wine. In many cases it is transferred from the cork, but may also be transferred through the cork rather than from it. Corked wine containing TCA has a characteristic odor, variously described as resembling a moldy newspaper, wet dog, damp cloth, or damp basement. In almost all cases of corking the wine’s native aromas are significantly reduced; a very tainted wine is quite unpalatable, though harmless. While humans’ threshold for detecting TCA is highly sensitive, measured in single-digit parts per trillion, this can vary by several orders of magnitude depending on the individual. This is the wine lover’s greatest horror! It strikes the mighty and the lowly, the king and the pauper. No wine—if sealed with a natural cork—is ever safe.
9 sommelier (n.)
The high priest of all things holy in the temple of Dionysus (or the guy you order around and browbeat because you can!) and wearer of the tastevin (see below). He in turn orders around the cellar rat, who gets all of the work and none of the glory. These hapless but valiant souls do all the heavy lifting. Sadly, there are few cellar rats who make the move from basement to floor (the dining room). But when they do they often make the best sommeliers, by virtue of their hard-earned fortitude.
10 tastevin (n.)
A small silver saucer worn around a sommelier’s neck on a silk ribbon and used to sample and judge a wine. This anachronistic bit of heraldic regalia is seldom seen on the modern sommelier, but there are rare preserves in New York City where this quaint but potent fetish is still employed, to an effect not unlike that of the shrunken head brandished by a witch doctor.—ALEX MIRANDA
Alex Miranda has been in the wine and food business in San Francisco and New York City since the mid-1980s as a restaurant manager, maitre d’ and sommelier. He currently works in the wine importing and distribution racket with the David Bowler Wine Company and resides in Brooklyn.