Wine Terms to Know: Wine Terminology
Many of us have walked into a wine conversation only to realize how little we understand about wine terminology and are at a loss for contributing to the discussion. Whether you are starting out as a wine drinker or simply want to increase your knowledge of wine terminology, here are some essential wine terms to know. Knowledge of these terms will let you communicate with ease with other wine drinkers or allow you to order wine at a restaurant with confidence. Below are some wine terms to know.
- Acidity. Acidity refers to the sourness in the wine. Wines with high acidity are sharp and make your mouth watery. Wines that have low acidity may taste flat but those with the right balance of acidity between tannins and fruits may feel lively or crispy. The wine’s acidity will depend on the grape ripeness and duration of fermentation. Unripe grapes tend to be very acidic, whereas overripe grapes tend to be sweet and fruity but lack acidity.
- Body. The body of a wine refers to the weight of the wine in your mouth. For example, water feels light and leaves no aftertaste, whereas a milkshake will feel heavy and leave a pleasant aftertaste. Similarly, some wines will feel heavy, while others will feel light. Full-bodied wines tend to have higher alcohol and/or sugar content. Light-bodied wines, on the other hand, feel watery. Classic full-bodied wines include Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, and Shiraz, whereas light-bodied wines include Pinot Noir and Rose.
- Complexity. A wine is said to be complex when it is rich in flavors, intensity, and aromas. In general, complex wines tend to have the perfect balance of tannins, acidity, and sweetness. Complex wines also tend to be harder to assess.
- Corked. When a wine has been contaminated with the cork, it is known as being “corked.” Sometimes fungi and some bacteria can grow inside the cork and produce a chemical called TCA. When this chemical comes in contact with the wine, it can contaminate the entire bottle, therefore ruining the wine. You will be able to tell when a wine is corked because it will have a musty, moldy, or off-putting flavor and a dry aftertaste.
- Earthy tones. An earthy wine will have flavors or an aroma of the natural environment, like the soil, fall leaves, hay, or mushrooms. Some wine drinkers like mild earthy wines; however, too many earthy flavors are not good because they can make the wine taste corked. Overall, earthy flavors tend to be more common in red wines, like Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, etc.
- Wine Finish. The wine finish is the lasting impression one gets after swallowing wine. The finish often describes the texture and flavors that are left in the mouth after swallowing. If the duration of the finish is long, it indicates a good quality wine.
- Jammy. The term “jammy” refers to when a wine has a taste of fruit that has been cooked (especially berries) or will have a taste like jam. Jammy wines tend to be low in acidity and tannins and can be sweet. In the past, most wine drinkers did not prefer jammy wines, but lately, the new generation of wine drinkers love these wines.
- Nose. Besides drinking wine, it is important to smell the wine before tasting it. The nose will detect the aroma or the bouquet of a wine. Different wines have different aromas. The aromas also depend on other factors, like aging, fermentation, and exposure to oak.
- Tannins. Tannins in a wine are the cause of the drying sensation in the mouth. Wines high in tannins often taste bitter or astringent, whereas those with small amounts of tannins usually feel smooth or soft. Tannins are naturally occurring substances found in the seeds, skin, and stems of grapes. In general, white wines are made without the seeds or skin, and do not contain tannins. Sometimes, if the wine is aged in an oak barrel, it may absorb the tannins from the wood. Red wines are usually made with grape seeds and the skin and contain a varying number of tannins. The tannins not only cause a bitter taste, but can provide structure to the wine, which adds complexity to it.
- Vintage. Vintage essentially means the year the grapes were harvested. In most cases, the label will reveal the vintage, but if there is no vintage stated, it means that the wine was manufactured from more than one type of grape. The vintage also tells you something about the quality of the wine. Some years, the growing conditions are better than in other years.
This is a smattering of wine terminology for beginners. You will learn more wine terms to know as you increase your experience with the wonderful world of wines. To learn more interesting wine terminology and fun wine facts, visit Pacific Rim & Company, and if you have any questions call us at 1-503-863-5454, where our passionate employees are happy to help.