Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.




Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dr. Vinny,

When a description of a wine uses the word "austere," what exactly is that referring to?

—Mike, Boston

Dear Mike,

Just as an austere person comes across as stern or severe, an austere wine is a stern wine. The best synonym I can think of is "hard," and "austere" generally refers to young wines that are dominated by tannins or acid and show restrained fruit flavors. (Other descriptors you might hear are "tight," "closed" or "stubborn.") "Austere" can be either a positive or a negative expression, depending on how else the wine is described. In some cases, it is used to indicate that a wine may have the potential to age—the term could imply that the wine's austerity and subtlety is a temporary phase that will evolve into something more pleasant over time. In other cases, an austere wine could be simply inexpressive and unpleasant.

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers


WineRatings+ app: Download now for 300,000+ ratings.