What does it mean to say a wine is "tight"?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I occasionally see comments that a wine is "tight." What does that mean, and how can I loosen the wine up?

—Dick P., Mukilteo, Wash.

Dear Dick,

A wine that is "tightly knit," or "tight," is one that's inexpressive or closed. The term usually refers to a young wine, and it can be applied to a wine's aromas, flavors or structure. Being tight isn't always a bad thing. In fact, it's kind of a backhanded compliment. If you're saying that a wine just needs to open up and develop to be more enjoyable, you're saying you think it's capable of that.

How do you loosen up a wine? Pour it in a glass, for starters. If you give the wine some room to aerate or "breathe," you might find it more expressive. Likewise with decanting. But sometimes a wine needs more time to unwind, and don't we all? Months or years in a cellar's optimum conditions might help your uptight wine learn to relax.

—Dr. Vinny

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