Wine Term: Beefy
Variations: Brawny, Muscular, Chewy
What it really means: The wine will punch you in the face, not say “sorry,” then proceed to walk away casually as though nothing happened.
Sounds aggressive, right? Well it is! A beefy wine has no time for elegance or finesse. In wine by wine context, an aged Bordeaux has tons of finesse, a young Napa Cab is ready for a fight. In New World battles, Napa may make a beefy Cab, but Red Mountain in Washington State has a little more muscle mass and quite a bit more hair on the skin to boot.
Ok, so removing the obvious jokes about licking a Washington lumberjacks’ arms, what does this really translate to for the wines themselves?
Well a beefy wine is quite…beefy. It can have a rich, bloody iron-like component, be brooding in the glass, have firmer, more plentiful or noticable chewy tannins, an impenetrable core, rounded/fleshed out fully on the palate, even saline-like qualities, and range from dry to off-dry on the sweetness scales.
It should be observed that gender-norms are written heavily into the language of wine. From the outset, wines are looked at as masculine or feminine in style – although this does not refer to the winemaker’s gender or how they make their wines (a woman can most assuredly make a very masculine wine, and a man cultivate an effeminate wine).
In efforts to make wine more inclusive from a language standpoint, you will see more descriptions like “delicate and balanced” or “beefy, muscular” but it’s all rooted in the male vs. female lens of wine stylings.
It is completely common and not unheard of for men to like effeminate wine stylings (just ask all the guys in our office how much they LOVE German Riesling – historically an effeminate styling of wine that is very graceful) or for women to desire macho reds (shout out to all the ladies at the office who want a big, rich, beefy Cab at the end of the day – literally every lady in this workspace).
How to effectively use it:
Once, in a past life, our in-house Somm Ryan sold a big, rich, muscular high-ticket red tableside by alluding to it being like a construction worker at the end of a long day. Now, the table bought it – half the adventure hand selling wine is knowing your crowd (these were Canadians down in SF on vacation looking for the meatiest red money could buy in 2006, and there was plenty available at the time) – but you’d never want to do that in a tasting room, especially in front of the winemaker.
Bad idea: “I’m looking for an axe-swinger of a wine.”
Better approach: “I’m looking for a beefy red.”
Best approach: “I prefer big, bold reds. I’d be curious to see if you have anything you’d categorize as beefy, possibly with a bit of iron on it?”
While not every winery produces this style of wine for various reasons, if you inquire correctly about it, they will assuredly be able to point you to the correct winery in their area or within a comfortable drive’s distance to get you what you desire.