Unless you are a wine expert, a regular wine drinker, or an enthusiast obsessed with learning about wines, you will find it challenging to describe the flavour, taste, and other things about the beverage. In such cases, a glossary of 15 wine descriptions and what they really mean can help you get familiarised with the wine jargon.
Wine Terms and their Meanings
Let us take a look at some common wine-related words thrown here and there in conversations:
Wine Origins and Wine-making Terms
While several words and terms get used to denote the origin and wine-making process, the following are two examples described in detail:
- Varietal: A varietal wine comes from a single grape variety instead of multiple. For instance, a Burgundian Pinot Noir is a varietal wine.
- Terroir: Every wine has a unique character owing to its growing conditions. These include climate, terrain, soil type, geographic location, etc. This french word essentially considers the environment of wine production.
- Malolactic fermentation: This secondary fermentation process converts a naturally occurring malic acid (apple tart-like flavour) into lactic acid, which is smooth like butter. Special yeast cells help after alcoholic fermentation to bring such texture to the wine.
Often while describing a wine to somebody, you would refer to its features for a proper explanation. The following 15 descriptions and what they really mean can help explain wines to others:
- Tannins: Tannins are chemical compounds from the grapes’ skin, seed, and stem. These give a bitter taste and a dry mouth feeling. They provide structure and shelf life and may not be a preference for all.
- Body: Like skim and whole milk, the body of the wine describes the weight or viscosity it leaves on the palate after drinking.
- Acidity: A wine seeming refreshing and zesty gets the mouth-puckering sensation from acidity. It makes the mouth water, giving the same feeling as eating a sour lemon or cranberry. Perfect food and wine pairing depend on the acidity in the wine bottle. While too much acidity can be harsh and feel like enamel stripping on the teeth, inadequate acidity can leave a flabby taste.
Wine aromas reflect the process the grapes underwent to become wine through the smell. Wine sommeliers utilise the following 15 wine descriptions and what they really mean concerning these concepts:
- Bouquet: Bouquet refers to the wine nose and indicates maturity in a complex good wine.
- Primary, secondary, and tertiary aromas: Primary aromas have fruity, floral, and herbal notes derived from grapes. Secondary aromas come from the background of wine-making techniques like fermentation. A yeast aroma, nutty, cheese rind, buttered brioche, etc., may cause secondary aromas. The aging process causes tertiary aromas and gives notes like coconut, oak, leather, tobacco, toasted nuts, cigar box, etc.
- Toasty/ Oaky: Aging in an oak barrel can leave a toasty oaky smell like vanilla, nuts, coconut, caramel, and smoke.
Wine Flavour words
You can put the wine flavour thoughts and feelings into words through the following terms:
- Buttery: Due to oak aging, a butter wine possesses a creamy texture and smooth finishing.
- Cassis: A wine with a seedy and gritty character, ripe and concentrated black currant note can get described as cassis.
- Herbaceous: Many wines get called herbaceous when they possess a peppery, oregano, eucalyptus, mint, or dried herb kind of flavour and aroma. Wines like Loire Valley Cabernet Franc have hints of green pepper aromas.
The taste that wine leaves in your mouth have the following 15 wine descriptions and what they really mean to describe them:
- Full-bodied: A high-viscosity wine that leaves the palate with intense flavours and textures is full-bodied. Their tannins and alcohol content is higher with a darker colour and gets described as rich, opulent, muscular, or structured. French Bordeaux is a complex, full-bodied red wine with complex flavours and firmer tannins. On the other hand, a fully white wine like Oaked Chardonnay possesses a creamy and round texture with nutty and tropical fruity flavours.
- Legs: After swirling the wine in the glass, tracks of liquid clinging to the side are tears or legs of the glass. The evaporation of alcohol causes these, affecting the liquid’s surface area. More legs mean more alcohol content and vice-versa.
- Supple: A supple wine has a soft, round, velvety kind of texture and palate. The well-integrated tannins in such wines prevent wines from getting astringent or drying in the mouth.
While these words barely scratch the surface of wine descriptions, they can certainly get you started on the wine discovery journey. Knowing how to describe your wine with these 15 wine descriptions and what they really mean can pose several benefits, beginning with explaining exactly to the sommelier what you want. While you will sound more confident while buying, you can also fit among the wine connoisseurs with the basic knowledge. Your wine drinking and enjoying experience will enhance thanks to these descriptions. Join Hunter Valley private tours in Sydney, Australia to taste the best wines and learn about wines.