Wine 101 – Learning the Vocabulary
Whether you have a fancy new wine cooler and want to know what to fill it with, or you’re trying to pick out the perfect bottle for your date night, the first step to choosing a wine is knowing a little about each type. And while it may be easy to find a description of a wine, either on a bottle or online, trying to decipher the lingo can be a chore unto itself.
Before you begin hunting, here are some terms you should know which will help you crack the code on wine descriptions:
Appellation – Where the grapes in the wine were grown.
Blend – A wine that was made from an assortment of grapes.
Vintage – The year in which the grapes were grown.
Fruit-Forward – A description given to a wine dominated by fruity flavors.
Savory – The opposite of Fruit-Forward. These are wines with a more tart or bitter taste.
Dry – Descriptive term for a wine where most of the sugar has been fermented into alcohol, leaving the wine with little sweetness
Sweet – Descriptive term for dessert wines, or wines that still have a lot of sugar in them.
Oaky – The flavors transferred from the barrel the wine was stored in.
Acidity – The amount of acid in the wine. Wines with high acidity tend to taste crisper and sharper.
Balance – How the levels of the main elements in the wine fit together to effect the taste.
Body – How heavy a wine “feels” in your mouth. Full-bodied wines feel “big” with many flavors at once, while a light wine is more subtle and delicate.
Complexity – A descriptive term for how many different flavors you can detect in the wine.
Length – How long the wine’s taste remains in your mouth.
Legs – The streams of wine that remain on the side of the glass after swirling it around. Sometimes this can indicate how much alcohol or sugar a wine contains.
Mature – The time at which your wine is ready to drink.
Aeration – Allowing the wine to breathe. This can be done by pouring a glass or transferring the wine from the bottle into a decanter. This opens up the flavors of a wine.
Aging – some wines become better over time. Not all wines age well, however, so make sure to ask.
Tannins – a substance in wine that causes the mouth to pucker. High tannins wines are considered “dry”
Corked – something bad has happened to the wine in the bottle, contaminating it before you’ve had a chance to drink it
This should get you on your way to knowing what’s in the bottle before you drink it. But keep in mind, the only way to truly know, is to pop the cork and enjoy a glass for yourself!