Getting Down to Basics with Basic Wine Terms
Author: Phillip Wainwright
There are some basic wine terms that everyone should know before choosing wine to buy or drink. Like most industries, there are certain words which are used as a matter of standard practice. It is important to understand the terms so you know exactly what the wine description is telling your or so you can describe the wine appropriately.
Speaking the Language of Wine
Every industry has its own language. The language has developed over many years and each word has a very distinct meaning. In the world of wine, only certain words can accurately describe a wine or an impression after drinking a wine.
Acidity refers to the acid taste the wine has which is in reference to the sharpness of the wine taste.
Aroma is a term used to describe how the wine smells (or ‘bouquet’). The aroma a wine has is related to the type of grape or botanical used to make the wine. For example, a wine may have a flowery aroma or an earthy aroma.
The term ‘balance’ in the world of wine alludes to how the many qualities of the wine blend together without any single quality overwhelming the others. It can also be used to define the pairing of the wine with food. Balance is another word for the harmony of the various wine elements.
The body or weight of the wine is the texture you feel on your tongue or in your mouth while drinking the wine.
When you let wine breathe, it means you are exposing the air to oxygen. For example, when you open a bottle of wine, the air mixes with the wine.
The term decant can mean one of two things. It refers to pouring the wine out of the bottle into a different container. It can also refer to pouring the wine slowly so the sediment is not disturbed. In the first case you are allowing the wine to breathe and in the second case you are preserving the clarity.
Dry wine is wine that has very little sugar in it. A dry wine may be mildly sweet or not sweet at all.
Fermentation is the process during which the crushed grapes are combined with yeast so the grape sugar turns into alcohol.
The finish of wine is the last impression the wine leaves as you swallow. You may describe a finish as smooth or harsh.
Fortified wine is wine that has had other alcoholic spirits added. It may contain brandy for example and it usually contains higher alcohol content than unfortified wine.
A full-bodied wine is one which makes the taste buds feel an intense flavor and can even feel heavy or thick.
A harsh wine is a biting wine that leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth. It is a wine that has too much acid or too much tannin in it.
The palate actually refers to the roof of the mouth and it is where the wine first hits before inundating the taste buds on the tongue.
Sediment is the remnant of the grapes or even yeast used in the production process. In high quality wines sediment is kept to a minimum.
Tannin is a substance found naturally in the grape seeds and stems. Tannins can make a wine taste very dry or bitter unless properly managed by the winemaker. Tannins can cause the mouth to pucker. Over time, as wine ages, tannins will mellow.
A wine labeled as varietal is one made with a dominant grape variety. The name of the wine usually indicates the name of the varietal grape. This makes it easy to read a wine label and identify the varietal grape.
The vintage is the year the grape was harvested.
These are just the main terms used to describe wine. There are many others, but if you know these basic terms you can speak the language of wine.
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