When I first started drinking wine, I had a hard time describing it, and in some cases still do. I am pretty sure way back then I did not do a good job. When one of my wine friends asked if I could taste the red raspberries in the wine, I am pretty sure the answer was “heck no.” Twenty-five years later I am much better at it — although I still have plenty of room to advance myself.
There are two important steps in educating yourself on describing wine. First, you must commit yourself to tasting a wide variety of wines and keeping notes on what the wines taste like. Second, you must understand wine terminology. You don’t need to learn all terms, as there are many, but the basic vocabulary of wine is important to learn. I have compiled a few of the basic terms used to describe wine that you should become familiar with.
There are thousands of publications that provide wine terms and descriptions of them. I searched one of my favorite sources of information, Wikipedia, for the definitions of the terms I have selected.
12 Wine Terms To Know:
- Aroma – the smell of a wine. The term is generally applied to younger wines, while the term bouquet is reserved for more aged wines. (Wikipedia)
- Nose – the aroma, smell or bouquet of a wine. (Wikipedia)
- Body – the sense of alcohol in the wine and the sense of feeling in the mouth. A wine is usually described as light, medium or full body. (Wikipedia)
- Fruit Forward – a fruit forward wine is a wine with a large amount of fruit flavors coming from the wine when you smell it. Fruit forward wines are packed with aromas and flavors of all types of fruit depending on the wine. As we all know, white wines have different fruit aromas than reds.
- Dry – a wine that is lacking the perception of sweetness. (Wikipedia)
- Tannic – a wine with aggressive tannins. It is detected by the drying sensation felt on the teeth, gums, tongue and inner cheeks. It comes from the skin, seeds and stems of grapes. Think of drinking black tea that’s been steeping for quite some time without any milk or sugar. (Wikipedia)
- Sweet – a wine with a noticeable sense of sugar levels (aka residual sugar). (Wikipedia)
- Acidity – a wine with a noticeable sense of acidity. It is detected by a mouthwatering sensation. (Wikipedia)
- Balanced – a wine that incorporates all its main components – tannins, acid, sweetness and alcohol – in a manner where no one single component stands out. (Wikipedia)
- Texture and Mouthfeel – this is a term used to describe how the wine feels inside your mouth as you drink and swallow it. The texture of wine can be smooth, silky, crisp, velvety or chewy. Some textures you might like more than others. Mouthfeel often helps identify the wines you like the most.
- Finish – the sense and perception of the wine after swallowing. (Wikipedia)
- Legs – the tracks of liquid that cling to the sides of a glass after the contents have been swirled. Legs are often said to be related to the alcohol or glycerol content of a wine. Also called tears. (Wikipedia)
Understanding these basic wine terms or vocabulary can be very beneficial in helping you understand wine better, thereby helping you to select wines that you will enjoy more. Once you have mastered basic wine terms you will want to start learning about “wine-tasting descriptors” which are what the flavors and aromas in wine are referred to. The use of wine-tasting descriptors allows you to measure and relate the flavors and aromas that you experience. That experience, coupled with the basic wine terms outlined above, allows you to judge the quality of wine you are drinking or want to purchase.
Over the past months I have been reporting on various wine-tasting descriptors and will continue to do so in the future. If you are interested you might go back to my August 19, 2020, blog article and read about some. Or you can learn about individual descriptors mentioned so far here: Smoky & Balance and Vanilla & Earthy.
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