19 Wine Terms That Matter

Uncategorized — By KF Louis on January 11, 2012 at 9:11 am

When looking at tasting notes and discussing wine with others, it’s easy to end up in the weeds fast.  While there are thousands of wine terms you may come across, here are the ones that matter most:

  1. Acidity: Tartness, liveliness and crispness noted in the taste of wine.  Acidity is critical in successful wine and food pairings.
  2. Appellation: Officially, a geographic region of France, where grapes are grown and made into wine.  More broadly, this is region of a nation where the wine is from.
  3. Balance: A “balanced” wine is characterized by a complimentary blend of elements—acid, sugar, tannins and alcohol.
  4. Body: A description of the weight and fullness of wine in the mouth—light, medium, or full bodied.
  5. Breathing: Allowing wine to aerate, or come in contact with air, so to bring out and improve the flavors.
  6. Decant: The process of aerating wine by pouring it into a decanter or a serving piece of glassware.
  7. Demi-sec: French term meaning “half-dry”. Confusing, as it is used to describe a sweet sparkling wine.
  8. Dry: Opposite of sweet—a taste sensation often attributed to tannins and causing puckering sensations in the mouth.
  9. Finish: The textures and flavors that linger in the mouth after swallowing wine.
  10. Full-bodied: Wine with high levels of alcohol and strong flavors.  Think a 14.5% California cabernet.
  11. Length: Describes how long the wine flavors linger in the mouth after swallowed.
  12. Nose: Smell describing the aromas and bouquets of a wine.
  13. Oak/oaky: Smell and flavor of vanilla and toast.
  14. Sommelier: A wine steward, or expert with extensive training and understanding of wine and how to pair it with food.
  15. Structure: Like body, describes the relationship of fruit, alcohol, acidity and tannins.
  16. Tannins: Element of wine that leaves a bitter and dry “puckering” feeling in the mouth.
  17. Terroir: French for “soil,” terroir is the characteristics of a particular growing region—its soil, water, and climate, which determine the quality of the grapes and resulting wine. You could say terroir is the mirco climate the varietals grow in and each vineyard owner tries to improve the ecosystem. Geographical characteristics – chalk, gravel, sand, clay – along with other environmental factors unique to a given vineyard, are also denoted by terroir.
  18. Varietal: The type of grape in which a particular wine is made and takes its name from. For example, zinfandel is a varietal.
  19. Young: Wine that is usually bottled and sold within the first year of its vintage. Wines meant to be consumed while “young” are noted for their fresh and crisp flavors.
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