The Beginner’s Guide to Wine: Vocabulary

Wine is not simply a beverage. It is a taste of lifestyles, cultures, and history as well as the key to unlocking the gastronomic treasure trove on your plate. Clearly, enjoying a glass of vino can be complicated. So, with so much complexity in a simple glass of grape juice, how do you even begin to approach the intricacies of its prismatic knowledge base?

The best place to start is with a basic wine vocabulary. It is when you begin to understand the words that people are associating with the gradient of colors, smells, and sensations of their glasses of wine, that you will quickly transform from a wine lover to a true connoisseur.

Also, once you begin to master your wine vocabulary, you should check out this wine guide for beginners. It goes into more detail about what you can do with your new-found lexicon.

Nose or Bouquet

vino a houpacka?? coooooo? ???? #swing #wine #goodlife w/ @gabrielapitr at @dosmundoscafe

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Even though they may not know the wine vocabulary for it, most beginning wine tasters are familiar with the image of a sommelier sticking their nose deep into a swirled glass of wine to admire the odor.

And no, this is not a caricature. Once you’ve poured out a nice, juicy glass of wine and admired the sparkling transcendence of its color, you, of course, need to give it a good sniff.

Engaging in this action allows oxygen to be introduced into the wine and help its aromas grow in complexity. Those aromas that you note, those are what the wine experts call the nose or the bouquet.

While you may feel that this action makes you look ridiculous, it is essential to fully enjoy your glass of wine. After all, smell is inextricably linked to taste.

Full-bodied

A full-bodied red wine is a wine with a mouth-coating effect and a depth of flavor that you can feel circulating around your entire mouth. With a rich, complex, well-rounded flavor that lingers, you won’t be able to mistake a full-bodied wine for anything else. 

Another hint to know if your chosen wine will have body or not is to look at its color. Generally speaking, the darker the color, the more full- bodied the wine.

Mouth-feel

Mouth-feel is closely linked to the body of the wine. It is how your senses perceive the interactive properties of the wine’s acidity, sweetness, bitterness, flavor, viscosity, warmth, and astringency.

To find the exact right word for the sensations that you experience in a sip, use this nifty mouth-feel wheel.

Tannins

Tannins are a naturally occurring polyphenol that comes from both the grapes and the wood of the vines. They are that key element that introduces that bold bitterness and astringency that you can easily recognize in a full-bodied red wine.

Typically, you will find tannins in red wines. However, you will also taste them in barrel-aged white wines.

Legs

Look at dem legs! #legs #wine #winelover #winelegs #wino #blindtasting #pasowine #villacreekcellars

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Have you ever noticed that after a good swirl of your wine glass you can hold it up to the light and observe streaks lingering on the inside of the glass? Well, these are wine legs. While they were historically considered to be an indicator of wine quality, they are actually just a result of science – it’s the surface tension of the wine.

However, legs are actually a good indicator of the alcohol content of wine. It turns out, the more pronounced and numerous the legs on your wine glass are, the more alcoholic it is.

Breathing

Letting wine breathe simply means letting it aerate by exposing its delicious liquid to the surrounding air. By mingling with the elements and the air, your wine is given a chance to “warm up” and release its aromas giving you a softer, more mellow taste profile that will highlight some of the bottles more nuanced characteristics and heighten your enjoyment.

Largely, this is a requirement for red wines.

Old World

“Old World” wines hail from regions in Europe with long histories of wine production. Generally, this means France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Austria.

Additionally, you should know that experts differentiate the wines produced of these regions by their terroir. These are the unique characteristics of the soil and climate that blend into the taste of the wine. 

New World

Unsurprisingly, “New World” wines are from newer wine-producing regions like the U.S, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, and Argentina.

These wine producing regions tend to have hotter climates and focus on the type of grape rather than the region to contrast the different types of wine.

Read More: How to Pair Wild Game with Wine + 9 Common Choices