Proper Wine Terminology
for New Wine Lovers
So, you’ve recently been invited to a wine tasting with a bunch of friends who clearly consider themselves wine connoisseurs. However, your wine knowledge does not extend much further than the fact that you enjoy drinking it!
And that’s okay — we can’t all be wine connoisseurs. But it’s inevitable that a good portion of your wine tasting excursion will involve ”wine talk”.
While you can still show your appreciation for wine without knowing much wine terminology, it can help you understand why you enjoy certain varieties so much! Check out this wine terminology guide to help you go toe-to-toe with any wine snob.
Wine Terminology 101:
Learn How to Talk the Talk
When it comes to general wine descriptions, there are usually four tasting terms worth knowing: the fruit level, sweetness level, body profile, and the finish.
At a wine tasting, the winemaker or sommelier will use these terms and other bits of specific wine language to describe what you’re smelling, tasting, and feeling. The first term they might begin with is:
The Fruit Level
All wines fall into a fruit-level category. It makes no difference whether a wine has light, rich, dry, or sweet undertones. Most wines fall into one of two categories: fruit-forward or savory wines.
Fruit forward means that fruit drives the flavor of a wine. It might have a jam-like, sweet, juicy, ripe, or sweet tannin flavor. Savory wines, on the other hand, are more herbaceous in nature. They include flavor descriptions such as stalky, rustic, wood-fired, and earthy.
In general, wine tends to leave behind a dry mouthfeel, despite how they taste. This has to do with the residual sugar content of the wine. Some spin-off terms that relate to dry wine include:
These wines include a touch of residual sugar which ranges from 2-3 grams per 5 ounces. Off-dry wines include white wines and high-quality Italian red wines.
This includes dessert wines with a higher residual sugar content of 3-28 grams per 5 ounces. Some types of champagne and sparkling wine varieties fall into this category.
The body of wine points to how it feels in your mouth, i.e. the weight of the wine. This includes three main categories:
Light-bodied wine sits lightly in the mouth, just like an iced lemonade or green tea would. Light-bodied wines tend to have low alcohol levels, higher acidity, and lower tannin levels.
Medium-bodied wines are also called food wines because they tend to pair best with an array of different foods. They include both white and red varieties of wine.
Full-bodied wines are quite intense in their weight and texture. They fill your mouth with high tannin levels as well as high alcohol levels. Naturally, they include heavier red wines.
You might also hear your friends or a wine expert refer to a wine as ”crisp”. This applies mostly to light-bodied wines that have a zingy, refreshing acidity.
Once you’ve swallowed a certain variety of wine, what impression does it leave in your mouth afterward? This is what the finish of a wine refers to. There are certain sub-categories that classify the finish of wine:
A smooth finish — a wine might feel velvety, buttery, supple, creamy, or lush in your mouth.
A tart finish — this is common in wines of a higher acidity level. There is sometimes a subtle hint of bitterness at the end.
A sweet tannin or smoky finish — this is common in oak-aged wines.
A dried-fruit finish — you’ll find that most aged red wines have this type of dry finish, as well as lighter-bodied red wines.
Then there’s also a spicy finish. This is typical with more intense wines that offer a sharp, burning sensation in the mouth once you swallow. Many people associate the feeling with eating wasabi!
Cork Genius for Wine Lovers
Whether you’re still learning to love and learn wine terminology, or you have a friend that’s a tried and true wine lover, Cork Genius is your wine accessory go-to.
Impress your guests with your smooth bottle-opening skills or gift a loved one with the ultimate Cork Genius wine set!