With wine, there’s always something for everyone. When making a choice of wine, however, a total amateur can feel overwhelmed by the language.
People say that learning the language of wine can change how you taste it. While we can’t confirm the experience will be the same, we can confirm one thing: knowing many essential wine terms can help you when buying from wine shelves.
In this guide, we’ll give you the 7 most important wine terms that you need to know. We hope that this doesn’t just help you during wine-tasting, but also help you pick the right flavours to tickle your senses.
1. Dry wines
You likely heard some wine connoisseur call wines ‘dry’. This can be confusing to both newbies and experts, so here’s what it means.
The term ‘dry’ refers to the lack of residual sugars in the wine. As fermentation starts converting natural sugars to alcohol, the wine starts to taste dry and unsweet. Most kinds of wine are dry.
‘Earthy’ is another one of those terms you’ll read from food and wine pairings. Earthy is everything but sweet. Most flavour profiles you’ll find in more mature wine variations tend to be earthy.
Oaky, meaty, nutty, and berry tastes are some descriptors for earthy flavours. Even (unsweetened) chocolatey flavour notes are earthy. Spiced, rocky, and chalky flavours also go under this.
3. Body (Light, Medium, Full)
The ‘body’ is a crucial element in looking for the proper, aged wines that you want. The body describes the mouthfeel of your wine. This has a big impact on how you drink it.
Wine body can be either light, medium, or full-bodied. This comes from the alcohol content of the wine, where:
- < 12.5% alcohol volume – light
- 5 – 13.5% alcohol volume – medium
- > 13.5% alcohol volume – full-bodied
Many reds tend to have a full body. Some whites like Chardonnay have a full body as well.
Acidity is a crucial component in wines. It refers to the sharpness that comes from the fruit acids that come out during fermentation. This can be tart, fresh, or sour.
Wine acidity can help balance the sweetness of the fruit and bitterness of the tannins. The acidity counteracts the sweetness of the fruit itself.
5. Wine tannins
Tannins are natural, textural elements in the wine. From a chemical standpoint, tannins come from the combination of different natural compounds. This contributes to the total dryness of the wine’s flavour notes.
In wine, this comes from different sources. Grape skin and grape seeds contribute to this taste. The natural tannins from the wood barrels also help develop this element.
6. Aging wine
Aging wine refers to the method of holding the liquid in the barrel, wine bottle, or tanks. This process allows for the juice to mature into wine via fermentation. Aging of wines tends to add different benefits.
Aging can help wines move from sweet to dry flavour profiles. It can also help the wine develop more tannins and increase its acidity.
A wine’s finish is the last flavour note that you get after you swallow it. People have different preferences when it comes to their wine finish. Among wine terms, the finish is one of the broadest.
Most people consider flavour finishes. These include:
Some also consider the duration of the finish and how it hits the palate. A clean, crisp finish tends to come from dry whites. Younger reds will have linear, single-flavoured finishes.
More powerful reds like Bordeaux and Cabernet have long, lingering finishes with fruity, oaky flavours.
Learning important wine terms make a difference
When it comes to the essential terms, knowing the language of wine helps. It can help you determine the best tastes for your palate and which ones you prefer.
The next time you go to your local winery, read the wine labels, and see the descriptors. With your newfound knowledge of wines, you’re all set. You’ll be at the top of the world in your next wine tasting.
If there’s a difference before learning your wine terms and after, tell us about it!