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.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

What's the difference between a wine that is "tight" and one that is "closed"?

Karl, Geneva, Ill.

Dear Karl,

These terms are basically synonyms for wines that are inexpressive at the moment they were tasted.

I believe "tight" has a slightly more positive connotation. It's used when the wine has a lot of stuffing: flavor, tannins, acidity, alcohol. But it's so concentrated that it becomes austere, and needs to open up and relax—either by decanting, glass swirling or resting in a cellar.

I mostly see a wine called "closed" when it's young and not expressing its full potential. It might seem muted, the flavors and aromas overpowered by alcohol, tannins or acidity. The taster may believe that "closed" wines will also open up with time or air.

Another related term is "dumb" or "dumb phase," when a wine is unexpressive because it's going through an awkward, transitional period as it evolves from youth to maturity. The fruit flavors start to decrease, and the mature complexities start to develop, but they kind of cancel each other out in a "dumb phase" that might last for several years. That's why wine geeks go around talking about whether or not a wine is "showing well" right at any given moment.

—Dr. Vinny


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

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

MEMBER LOGIN

= members only

Keep me logged in      Forgot Password?

Free Email Newsletters

Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions

» View samples
» Or sign up now!
» Manage my newsletter preferences

Classifieds

The marketplace for all your wine needs, including:

Wine Storage | Wine Clubs
Dining & Travel | Wine Auctions
Wine Shops | Wine Accessories