If you’re new to drinking wine, there are some wine terms that you will frequently hear when it comes to discussing wine. To really enjoy the wine-drinking experience, you should take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the terms so that you can develop your wine personality and likes and dislikes so as not to get drawn in by what others are saying about the wine. It really makes venturing out to try new wines a lot more fun when you understand what you’re tasting. So, let’s dive in!
Acidity- when tasting wine, acidity refers to a wine’s tart, sour, and fresh characteristics. Think about how your lips pucker when drinking lemonade. Wines with high acidity are great with fatty foods because the high acidity level helps to cut through the fattiness of the food. This is why French fries and champagne are a perfect match!
Aerate- similar to breathing; it’s the process of introducing air into the wine.
Balance- a balanced wine is one where all four major components of wine- acidity, alcohol, tannins, fruit, and sugar are in harmony with one another; meaning, there isn’t one more component that is stronger than the other. They are playing nicely with each other. We love balanced wines; they’re the best!
Blends- this refers to wines that contain two or more grape varieties that combine after separate fermentation. Some popular blends include red and white Bordeaux and Cotes de Rhone.
Body- refers to the weight of the wine, meaning how it feels in your mouth. Wines range from light-bodied to full-bodied.
Bouquet- although not a term used frequently these days, bouquet refers to the smell scent, and aroma of the wine.
Breathe- introducing air into the wine.
Chaptalization - the process of adding sugar to unfermented grapes to increase the amount of alcohol in the wine after fermentation.
Corked- No, this isn’t the small pieces of cork you may find floating around in your glass. This refers to wine that has been contaminated by a faulty cork. Unfortunately, this happens in approximately 1 in 12 bottles and has a distinct smell. To see whether your wine is corked, pour a small amount in a glass and swirl around. If you don’t smell any fruit but rather wet cardboard, then the wine is corked. It’s not harmful to drink, but it’s not a pleasant drink either.
Decant- the process of transferring the wine from its bottle to a decanter (typically a glass pitcher of sorts) to aerate the wine or to separate it from any sediment.
Dry- refers to wine that has not been chaptalized; in other words, no sugar added, so it’s not going to be a sweet wine. Where’s the fun in that??
Earthy- refers to the scent of wine. Old World wines are typically known to be more earthy than New World wines. When thinking about earthy wines, think mushrooms, sage, or forest floor.
Fortified Wine- refers to wine that has brandy added during the fermentation process; this yields to a higher sugar and sweetness content because of the suspended fermentation.
Fruity- refers to a fruity but not necessarily sweet wine. It’s the fruits that you’re tasting in the wine, e.g., berries, melon, or apples. Occasionally, this may produce some sweetness because fruits are naturally sweet, but that will not be the basis of the wine, sweetness that is. Just remember that fruity does not equal sweetness in the wine.
Ice Wine- throwing this one in for fun; this is a wine made from frozen grapes. Austria, Canada, and Germany are leaders in ice wine production.
Legs- refers to how wine sticks to the inside of a wine glass after swirling or drinking.
New World- Regions that are considered New World include North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The climates in these regions are typically warmer and produce wines that have higher alcohol content, are riper, fruit-centered, and full-bodied.
Old World- refers to traditional winegrowing regions such as European regions, specifically Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and Germany, as well as Northern Africa. The climates in these regions tend to produce wines that are lighter-bodied and exhibit more earth, floral, mineral, and earth components.
Oxidized- a wine that is no longer fresh because it’s been exposed to too much air.
Sommelier- someone with a great deal of knowledge of wine as well as a diploma in wine studies.
Spicy- refers to wines that have notes of black pepper, white pepper, cinnamon, allspice, etc. An example of a spicy wine is Malbec.
Tannins- this is the dry sensation you feel in your mouth after taking a sip of red wine. What makes a wine have weak or strong tannins depends on how long the juice sits with the grape seeds, skins, and stems after the grapes have been pressed. The longer the grapes sit, the higher the tannins and the drier the feeling is in your mouth and vice versa.
Terroir- a term used to describe the soil, terrain, and climate that shapes a wine’s character by giving the grapes their unique aroma and flavor.
Vintage- this denotes the year on the label of when the grapes were harvested. This can significantly affect the quality and taste of the wine because of how weather can affect the vines during the growing season. Champagne is typically labeled as N.V.- non-vintage. This means that multiple years were blended to make the wine. These wines are a good value because they’re known for their consistent house style.
Viticulture- this refers to the business of growing grapes.