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30 basic wine terms everyone should know

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30 basic wine terms

Wine is simply described as art in a bottle. As with many of the pleasures in life, there is a specific set of terms that help to understand and enjoy wine better. Below you can find 30 basic wine terms everyone should know. The wine terms below are the perfect start for beginners and people who enjoy the pleasures of wine but are not familiar with ways to describe it. 

We all have our favourite wines; however, they are not as straightforward as a glass of apple juice to describe and identify. When somebody asks you about your preferences it is hard to get the description right, am I correct? The following wine terms will help you at the wine store, restaurant or simply while chatting with your wine fan friends. 

Acidity

It describes the crispiness of the wine. It refers to the tart and sour taste present in wine. 

Appellation

It refers to the particular area where the grapes used for the wine were grown. The wine must fulfil the guidelines for being considered from the appellation. For example, we can find the Napa Valley, Tuscany, Rioja.

Aroma

This is something singular that can be picked from the smell of the wine, for example, fruits, flowers, spices, oak or smoke. 

Astringent

It refers to the sensation of dryness that comes when drinking some wines. The astringent sensation can appear as a tart, bitter and dry feeling in the mouth.

Body

It refers to the sensation of richness that a wine produced in the mouth. The body is the result of many characteristics of the wine that work together, but it does not refer to the quality of the wine. A wine can be light, medium or full bodied. 

Bouquet

Similar to flowers, a bouquet is the collection of aromas that wine has. 

Blend

It refers to a wine that is produced with more than one grape variety. For example, the Bordeaux blend is made by Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere grapes, while a “GSM” is a blend that contains Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. 

Complexity

It refers to the numerous flavours and odours that work together to transform the flavour of the wine over time. 

Depth

It refers to the aroma, taste, texture and finish associated to the complexity of the wine. 

Dry

A dry wine has no perceptible taste of sugar. Simply speaking a dry wine is the opposite of a sweet wine. During the wine making process, not all sugar is fermented which then it is balanced with acidity to achieve the wished taste. 

wine terms for beginners

Earthy

This is the opposite of a fruity taste. It features a bitter and sour taste similar to grass, chalk, rocks, chocolate and soil. 

Finish

It is the taste that a wine leaves in the mouth after the wine is swallowed. This residual taste can often be sweet, tart, bitter, smoky.

Fruity

It is used to refer to sweet smells, for example in the case of red wine, one usually refers to berries, jams, toffee, while in the case of white wine it is usually peach, mango, pineapple, vanilla. 

Lees

It refers to the deposits of dead yeast that sinks to the bottom of wine after fermentation and ageing. 

Lenght

It is the amount of time that the flavours from the wine stay in the mouth after swallowing it. 

Maceration

It is the wine making process where the colour, flavour and tannins are transferred from the grape skins to the grape juice. 

Mature

It refers to the stage in which wine has reached their peak of complexity and it is in their ideal stage to drink. 

Minerality

It is used to describe an aroma in wine that is not spice, herb or fruit. This is associated with the terroir and origin of the wine. Minerality can be associated with the smell of the soil after rain or the smell of chalk.

New World

This is used to describe wines that are grown outside of Europe and the Mediterranean, so basically regions that are new to wine production. New world wines have usually pronounced fruit flavors. 

Oaky

This term is used to refer to the smell and flavours caused by barrel-aging techniques in wine. In white wine it adds butter or vanilla flavours, while in red wine it is usually baking spices. 

Old World

This is used to describe wines that are grown in Europe and the Mediterranean. Old world wines are usually less fruity, more mineral flavors. 

Old word wine

Sediment

These are the purple flakes at the bottom of the wine. These are the tannins and pigments that fall out of the wine when it was aged for several years. 

Structure

It refers to how well the wine is balanced in terms of fruit, alcohol, acidity, tannins, etc. 

Sweet

This is the opposite of dry. Sweetness in wine refers to the residual sugar, measured in g/l that is left in the wine after fermentation. This actually makes the wine taste sweet.

Tannins

It refers to the compounds in wines that add a bitter and dry feeling in the mouth which contributes to the body of the wine. By the way, tannins have nothing to do with your headache after drinking red wine.

Terroir

It refers to the land where the grapes are grown. It evokes the characteristics of a wine from a particular region or vineyard.

Typicity

It refers to the degree in which a wine taste like the region where it was grown. 

Varietal

This is used to describe the type of grape used to produce the wine. Varietal wines are produced with a minimum 85% of one grape type. 

Vintage

It is the process of harvesting grapes and making wine. A vintage wine is achieved when all grapes come from the same year. 

Weight

It is a term used to refer to strong flavoured, dark coloured and high alcohol wine. 

Hopefully, these terms will complement the wine basics for beginners series and help you the next time you are buying wine, enjoying your favourite bottle or chatting about wine. If you have any questions or want a follow-up edition of wine terms let me know here or dm me on my Instagram! Cheers, and start practising the terms with your next glass. 

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