Did you know that people have been sipping wine for thousands of years? It’s true! There are actually over 10,000 different types of grapes used to make wine all around the world. Despite this huge variety, only a handful of wine grape varieties have really caught on and become super popular.
Whether you’re new to drinking wine or looking to expand your knowledge, getting to know wine lingo is a smart move. The wine world can be overwhelming with all its jargon and ambiguity. Learning some of the fundamental wine terms can assist you on your way to developing a true appreciation for the drink.
This guide will discuss some of the basic wine vocabulary terms you should know and help you impress your friends with your robust language the next time you go wine tasting.
Words Used When Wine Tasting
You’ll encounter some commonly used words to describe wine. They are:
ABV stands for alcohol by volume. The average ABV that you’ll find in wine ranges from 11.5-12%. Alcohol is directly related to sugar content. The higher the ABV, the dryer or less sweet the wine is because most of the sugar has turned into alcohol. Generally, the lower the alcohol %, the sweeter the wine can be.
A wine’s acidity describes the tartness or sourness of a wine. It’s that zingy sensation you feel on your tongue when you take a sip. Acidity is a crucial component in wine because it helps balance out the sweetness and enhances the flavors. A wine with too little acidity can taste flat and dull, while a wine with too much acidity can taste sharp and unpleasant. Finding that perfect balance is key.
This fancy term is used to describe the different scents and smells that you can pick up from a glass of wine. These aromas can range from fruity and floral to spicy and earthy. Aromas play a crucial role in determining the overall flavor profile of the wine. The next time you take a sip of your favorite vino, take a moment to appreciate the unique aromas that make it so delicious!
The texture and weight of a wine on your palate are called the body. Similar to the difference between skim milk and whole milk – one feels lighter and thinner, while the other is richer and creamier; a wine with a full body will feel heavier and more substantial, while a light-bodied wine will feel more delicate and airy. This characteristic is influenced by factors such as the grape variety, the climate in which it was grown, and the winemaking process.
The secondary aroma in a wine is the bouquet. It’s the combination of different smells that you can detect when you smell the wine. This can include fruity, floral, spicy, or earthy notes. Many people pick up notes on bouquets like caramel, vanilla, and spice. The bouquet can give you an idea of the wine’s age, grape variety, and even the region where it was produced.
A wine’s finish refers to the aftertaste that lingers in your mouth after you’ve taken a sip. A good finish is one that is long-lasting and leaves a positive impression, while a bad finish can be short-lived and leave a negative taste in your mouth.
Mouthfeel is used to describe the physical sensations experienced in the mouth while consuming wine. It encompasses a range of factors, including texture, viscosity, and astringency. The mouthfeel of wine can greatly impact the overall tasting experience, as it can influence the perception of flavor and aroma.
Tannins are a group of compounds found in grape skins, seeds, and stems that give the wine its characteristic dry and bitter taste. They also provide structure and texture to the wine, making it feel more full-bodied and complex.
Tannins are more commonly found in red wines, as they are extracted during the fermentation process when the grape skins are left in contact with the juice. White wines can also have tannins if they are aged in oak barrels.
Tips for Describing a Wine Glass
When it comes to discussing wine, it’s important to have the right vocabulary to describe the glass it’s served in.
Here are some helpful pointers to make you sound like a pro:
The shape of a wine glass can greatly affect the taste and aroma of the wine. Use words like “tulip-shaped” or “flared” to describe the bowl of the glass.
The stem of a wine glass not only adds elegance but also serves a purpose. It keeps your hand from warming up the wine. Use words like “long” or “slender” to describe the stem.
The base of a wine glass can also vary in size and shape. Use words like “wide” or “narrow” to describe the base.
The rim of a wine glass can be thin or thick and can affect the way the wine flows into your mouth. Use words like “thin” or “rolled” to describe the rim.
By using these descriptive words, you’ll be able to talk about wine glasses like a true connoisseur. Cheers to that!
General Wine Terms
There are other words you might hear in settings outside of a wine-tasting event. These terms might be useful when describing wine or purchasing it from a liquor store.
Varietal refers to a wine made from a single type of grape. This means that the wine is made entirely from one specific grape variety, such as Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s important to note that varietal wines can vary in taste depending on factors such as the climate, soil, and winemaking techniques used.
Variety can refer to either the grape itself (Malbec, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris) or to the style or kind of wine, as in red, white, or sparkling, etc.
Grape varieties include:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Grigio
A specific geographic area where grapes are grown and the wine gets made is an appellation. Appellations can include the following:
- Specific vineyard
Famous appellation examples are Napa Valley, Bourdeaux, and Champagne.
The year the grapes were harvested for wine is its vintage. For example, if you’re drinking a 2019 vintage, that means the grapes got harvested in 2019.
Sometimes a wine has to meet specific criteria to get considered a “vintage.” In the Bordeaux region, vintage wines only get made in years when the grapes are high quality. Wines that are labeled “non-vintage” include grapes from multiple years.
The natural environment where the wine grapes were grown is its terroir. This includes things like the climate, topography, and soil. A combination of these factors can cause distinct flavor profiles in the wine.
Learn More About the Beverage With Wine Terminology
Understanding the basics of wine terminology can be incredibly beneficial. Whether you’re planning a wine-tasting adventure or simply want to impress your friends with your knowledge, educating yourself on the subject can take you far. By familiarizing yourself with the verbiage associated with wine, you’ll be able to purchase and enjoy your favorite bottles confidently.
Levo is one of the leading wineries in California’s Central Valley. We invite you to come by our property to taste some of our wines. Contact us to schedule a tasting session.