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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

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