What does it mean when a wine is described as “rustic”?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What does it mean when a wine is described as “rustic”?

—Steven, Van Buren, Ark.

Dear Steven,

“Rustic” can either be a positive or negative term, depending on the context. It usually means a hearty, rough-edged wine. I see it used mostly to describe red wines, because “rustic” can refer to tannins I’d describe as coarse, chewy or drying. The opposite of a rustic wine would be one that’s “elegant,” with refined or smooth tannins.

I find plenty of rustic wines charming. Petite Sirah comes to mind—these dark, chewy wines are the opposite of a refined, silky red. But if the flavors are as intense and concentrated as the tannins, then I can find the profile very appealing. Of course, if the rough tannins and rustic profile are distracting or overtly drying, then rustic could be a flaw.

—Dr. Vinny

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