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Dear Dr. Vinny,
What does it mean when they say a wine is rustic, or the tannins are rustic?
—Albert, Seoul, Korea
A “rustic” wine is one that can be described as hearty, earthy or rough-edged. The opposite of a rustic wine would be one that’s refined, elegant or smooth. “Rustic” is also a good way to describe tannins that have a chewy or coarse texture.
As a term to describe a wine’s personality, most of the time I think it’s used in a positive way. Rustic wines can be charming, and when it comes to Carignane or Petite Sirah, I expect and appreciate a touch of rusticity in these wines. But in certain wines—say, a high-end Burgundy, when the expectation is for silky tannins—if the tannins are unexpectedly rough or coarse, rusticity might be distracting and seen as a flaw.
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