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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have noticed wine experts using the word “effortless” or “effortlessly” when describing wine. If someone says that wine should “evolve effortlessly,” what does that mean? It implies that wines can choose to make an effort at something, or decline to make an effort.

—George A., via the Internet

Dear George,

It’s pretty easy to pick on the language used to describe wine, to say that it’s obscure, stuffy, overly flowery and smelling vaguely of cow pie (see what I did there?). But language—as awesome as it is for expressing things—also has its limitations. And if you’re going to take every word for its literal meaning or pretend you’re the syntax police, you’re going to get frustrated when reading wine descriptors.

The word “effortless” is an adjective meaning that something poses no difficulty, and a synonym would be “easy.” In the context of wine, I also see it mean graceful, smooth or fluid. The opposite would be difficult, hard or complicated. So if someone writes that a wine will “evolve effortlessly,” I don’t think that the writer has suddenly confused the wine for a person with intentions; I think they’re suggesting that it’s going to drink well over the next several years as it ages.

—Dr. Vinny

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