For More Inclusivity In Wine, Our Language Needs to Change | Wine Enthusiast
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For More Inclusivity In Wine, Our Language Needs to Change

When Tamy Rofe, partner at Brooklyn, New York’s Colonia Verde Restaurant and Comparti Catering, was studying for her sommelier certification, there was a lot of emphasis placed on vocabulary.

She remembers being given a wine aroma wheel, for example. If you’re unfamiliar, imagine a pie chart divided into slices that represent fragrances or flavors. An industry standard, it’s designed using specific terminology to create a systematic language for tasting notes and analysis.

“Everyone’s literally speaking the same language,” says Rofe. “But…I like the rebellious idea of throwing that away and starting from scratch.”

She’s not alone. As the wine world evolves to reach new generations and a wider range of people, so does the language used to describe it. Many have begun to break away from shared verbiage.

“I grew up in Chicago, where there is no ‘forest floor,’” says Alicia Towns Franken, vice president of Archer Roose and head of mentorship at Wine Unify. “If we want more people to drink wine, we have to include them in the words we use to discuss wine.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean replacing a term like forest floor with, say, subway platform. It’s more about exploring attributes beyond flavor like how a wine makes you feel. Below, get the hang of some different ways to consider wine.


Get to know a wine as you would a person. Think about the traits or quirks that stand out.

Ask yourself: How would I introduce this wine at a party?

Examples: Rofe may describe a wine as “generous” if it’s rich, full-bodied and giving, while she may consider a wine with springy lightness to be “charming.”


Consider wine a costar to the current menu or in relation to your own personal preferences.

Ask yourself: How does this jive with the flavors on my table right now?

Examples: “When I started out, a fiasco [of Chianti] was the classic pizza wine,” says Towns Franken. But you might prefer “a fruity Lambrusco, or… pricy Champagne.” The perfect pairing is the one you like best.

Sensory Experience

Our own sense of a wine depends on more than taste or smell. “[The] type of day I’ve had… who I’m with, even my body temperature,” says Towns Franken, can all play a role.

Ask yourself: How does this wine make me feel? Does it remind me of a certain moment

Examples: A glass savored on vacation may recall rest and relaxation or may taste totally different at your kitchen table.