Do you love wine? Do you want to learn more about it, but don’t know where to start? This wine glossary is for you. In this short guide, we will define all the important terms that you need to know to talk about wine like a pro and impress your friends.
Aeration – The process of exposing the wine to air. This can be done by pouring it into a decanter or simply swishing it around in your glass. The more you allow the wine to breathe, the more open and expressive it will become.
Body – The weight of a wine on your palate. Wines can be light-, medium- or full-bodied. The body is determined by the alcohol content and the grape variety used.
Composition – The combination of different grape varieties used to make a wine. For example, a Bordeaux blend would be made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
Decanting – The process of pouring wine from its bottle into a separate container, typically done to remove sediment from older wines.
Sediment – Particles of the grape skins, seeds, and stems that fall to the bottom of a wine bottle during aging.
Tannins – Natural compounds found in grape skins, seeds, and stems that contribute to the astringent, bitter taste of young wines. Tannins are also present in oak barrels, and they help preserve wine.
Balance – When the various components of a wine are in harmony with each other. This includes sweetness, acidity, alcohol, and tannins.
Age – The amount of time that a wine has been stored. As an example, a “2013 Cabernet Sauvignon” was bottled in 2013 and has been aging since then. Generally, the longer a wine ages, the more complex it becomes.
Aftertaste – The sensation of flavors that linger on your palate after you have swallowed the wine.
Aroma – The smell of a wine, which can be affected by the grape variety, terroir, and winemaking techniques.
Breathe – As mentioned earlier, exposing wine to oxygen can help soften it. This is often done by simply uncorking the bottle and letting it sit for a while before serving.
Appellation – The legally defined and protected geographical indication of where a wine comes from.
Champagne – This is a common term, but it can only be used to describe sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of France. These days, you’ll find many excellent sparkling wines from all over the world, but only Champagne can be called Champagne.
Corked – A wine that has been contaminated by a chemical compound found in cork. This can happen when the cork is not of high quality, or if it has been stored improperly. A corked wine will have an off-putting smell, often described as “wet dog” or “moldy.”
Dry – Seen as the opposite of sweet, dry wine has little or no residual sugar. Most red wines are dry, while many whites have some sweetness.
En Primeur – A system of buying and selling wine that is common in Bordeaux. Wines are sold as “futures,” meaning they are purchased before they are bottled. The buyer pays for the wine, and then the wine is shipped once it is bottled.
Fining – A process of clarifying wine by adding agents that will bind to particles in the wine, making them heavier and thus causing them to settle out of the wine.
With these terms in your arsenal, you’ll be able to approach your next wine purchase with confidence. Cheers!