“I don’t like wine, it’s too sweet”.
“Drinking wine tastes like drinking out of a chimney”.
“I like sweet drinks and wine isn’t sweet enough for me”.
“I don’t like how bitter wine tastes”.
These are all comments I’ve heard from people who say they can’t find a wine they like, and to them I say “challenge accepted”! I am a firm believer that everyone can find a wine that they love, it’s just a matter of knowing your personal preferences and a (very) basic understanding of the differences between wine varietals.
I am no wine expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I was once one of those wine haters. I had tried several different types of wine and hated every one of them. I had been told that I should try sweeter wines, because “women tend to prefer sweeter wines to dry wines” (no joke, that was what a self proclaimed “wine expert” once told me). Since I didn’t know any better at the time, I tried sweet wines as I was instructed, but they all tasted like drinking a wine cooler which was much too sweet for me.
Working as a bartender during college, I had the opportunity to learn more about wine and wine varietals, so I decided to break away from the “expert” advice I had been given and try something different. After trying a glass of rich spicy Syrah, I realized that I didn’t like the wine I had previously tried because I prefer richer, drier, less sweet flavors.
I’ve now made it my goal to change the opinions of those self proclaimed haters of wine, so this will be the first in a series of articles to explain the basics of the most popular wine varietals. Trust me, there’s a wine out there for everyone, it’s just a matter of finding the right one for you. Even if you’re a wine enthusiast, hopefully this series will give you new insight or inspire you to try something new.
The first in the Wine on Wednesdays series focuses on the basic wine terminology. There are a ton of terms related to wine and wine making, but I’m going to focus on some of the most basic terms. These are the terms you might see on wine labels or descriptions of wines, and terms you’ll often hear fellow wine enthusiasts use to describe wine.
Wine on Wednesdays: Wine Terms Defined
Acid/Acidic: This is a reference to a flavor of wine. Wine naturally contains acid, but this is often used as a way to explain crispness of wine.
Balance: With respect to wine, balance refers to the balance of flavors in a wine; such as balancing the fruitiness of a wine with the oak or vanilla flavors so that one doesn’t overpower the other
Body: This refers to the texture and weight of a wine. Often you’ll hear wine referred to as “full bodied”, which means it may have a rich, bold and/or creamy texture.
Bouquet: Bouquet is a term that refers to all of the scents or aromas of a wine. For example, you may detect notes of apple, vanilla, lemon and pear in a wine. All of these scents together would be referred to as a bouquet. Kind of like a bouquet of flowers, where you may smell various types of flowers together.
Breathe: Allowing a wine to “breathe” means exposing it to open air to mix with the wine. For many wines, especially red wine, this can change and enhance the flavor.
Crisp: This is a term that usually refers to white wine and usually means the wine has a fresh, lighter flavor.
Dry: Technically speaking, a dry wine means that the wine has little or no sugar left after fermentation. From a taste perspective, a dry wine is typically less sweet, and may leave a drier taste in your mouth.
Finish: Finish refers to how long the flavor in a wine stays in your mouth after you drink it. The longer, the better. 🙂
Legs: “Legs” refers to the traces of wine that tend to linger on your glass. Often you’ll see wine drinkers tilt their glass to the side while drinking. When they do this, they’re looking at the legs of the wine to see how long they are; meaning how long the wine lingers on the glass. Longer legs means more alcohol and sugar in the wine.
Mellow: This usually refers to wines that have a softer flavor, without a lot of bite.
Nose: Wine drinkers often refer to the “nose” of a wine. This is just a fancy word for “smell”. 🙂
Oak: Often you’ll hear the term “oak-flavored” to explain the flavors in a wine. This simply means that the wine has been stored in oak wine barrels and literally has the taste of oak in the flavor.
Spicy: Spicy wines literally have the flavor of spices: clove, cinnamon, pepper, vanilla, etc.
Tannin: Tannin is a term used to refer to that feeling of puckering up your lips because of the flavor of a wine. It can also refer to the dryness of a wine. Tannins typically soften with age.
Those are a few of the most commonly used terms for wine, and terms that will help you understand some of the differences in wine varietals. I hope you’ve learned something new, and stay tuned for next week’s Wine on Wednesdays to learn more about Chardonnay!
Hi Ericka, very well done post. I look forward to the rest of the series.
This is a great introduction to wine tasting!