A Wine Lover's Guide to 15 Key Wine Terms

Grip the grape.

There are nearly 9,000 wineries in the United States. Between 2015 and 2016, more than 400 opened. With a great variety of wineries, there comes a great variety of wines.

To distinguish amongst wines, experts use many different wine terms. Learn them, and you can develop your taste in wine.

Here are fifteen important terms that teach you how to describe wine.

  1. Acidity

Acidity provides a tart taste to the wine. Wines with a high acidity make the mouth pucker.

Many wine drinkers look for a moderate acidity. They want a wine that makes their mouth water, encouraging them to take another sip.

  1. Aftertaste

Aftertaste is the length of time that a wine spends in the mouth after the person tastes it. “Aftertaste” is similar to “endnote” and “finish.” Good wines have a long aftertaste.

  1. Age

Allowing wine to age creates chemical reactions in the wine’s sugars and acids.

Some wineries expose their wine to oxygen, allowing colors to grow darker. Other wines store their wine in a cellar, chilling the wines to produce different reactions.

  1. Aroma

Aroma refers to scent. Wines can smell earthy, fruity, and spicy.

Many wine drinkers smell their wine before sipping it. Aromas activate the taste buds, permitting a richer taste of the wine.

  1. Blend

Blending mixes different wine varieties together. Champagne and chianti are among the most popular blends, though some low-quality wineries mix wines to create more expensive products.

  1. Body

The body is the physical sensation of wine. Some wines like pinot noir feel less weighty than other wines.

The heavier the body, the more alcohol a wine has. A heavy wine can be white or red, though the heaviest wines tend to be red.

  1. Buttery

Buttery flavors occur through malolactic fermentation. A winery converts the malic acid in the wine into lactic acid, creating a taste similar to dairy products. A buttery flavor is essential for popular wines like chardonnay.

  1. Complex

Complex refers to a blend of aromas. If you can detect multiple scents within a wine, the wine has a complex aroma.

The best complex wines have scents that complement each other. Spices should complement fruits, without one overpowering the other.

  1. Dryness

Dryness refers to the sweetness of wines. Non-sweet wines do not make your mouth feel dry, while sweet wines do. Many people like non-dry wines, and most restaurants feature non-dry wines.

  1. Grape Varieties

The type of grape determines the type of wine. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most famous red-wine grape, but others include Pinot Noir and Bourdeaux.

Black grapes produce red wines with high body and alcohol levels. Light red grapes produce fewer tannins, creating less acid.

  1. Mouthfeel

Mouthfeel is the texture of wine in the mouth. It is similar to “body,” but it has more to do with the wine’s perceived smoothness. Most people prefer smooth wines, though wine can be chalky.

  1. Structure

The structure is the components within a wine, including acid, alcohol, and sugars. Good structure supports an even balance amongst the different components.

  1. Sweetness

Sweetness refers to the sugars within the wine. Sweet wines possess residual sugar from the distilling process, creating drinks that can complement desserts.

  1. Tannins

Tannins are chemical compounds extracted from the grape skins. They serve as the backbone of the wine, providing texture and mouthfeel.

  1. Wine Tasting

A wine tasting is a formal event in which you can try out different wines. You can test all components of different wines.

Many wineries run tastings and add their own spins. For example, D’Vine Wine Tours conducts tours that include food samples and beer tastings.

The Fifteen Essential Wine Terms

Don’t whine. Understand some essential wine terms, and you can talk shop with the experts.

Wines have acid, aroma, body, structure, and mouthfeel. Aging, grape varieties, and tannins determine these different qualities. A wine tasting allows you to determine if a wine has the right aftertaste and sweetness for you.

Develop what you know so you can see the world. Read our other posts for more information.

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