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Sommelier-speaker Made Easy – Your Guide to Common Wine Terms

by Ethan More

If you love wine or are simply looking to learn more about it, understanding common wine terms is key. A sommelier-speaker can help make this process easy and fun.

This guide will give you a basic understanding of the most common wine terms so that you can impress your friends with your knowledge at your next gathering.

10 Common Wine Terms You Need to Know

1. Tannins

In wine, tannins give the drink its structure and body. Tannins are found in both red and white wines, although more commonly in red, contributing to the wine’s flavour and preservation.

This is because the grape skins, which contain high levels of tannins, are left in contact with the juice during fermentation.

The longer the skin stays in contact with the juice, the more tannins are extracted. While tannins are important for the flavor and structure of the wine, too much of them can make a wine taste harsh and unbalanced.

When choosing a wine, be sure to take into account the level of tannins. If you’re looking for a smooth, elegant wine, choose one with low tannins. If you prefer a wine with more body and flavor, go for a wine with high tannins.

2. Body

The body is a common wine term that refers to the overall weight and feel of a wine in the mouth. It’s often used to describe wines that are full-bodied or have a rich, creamy texture. Wines with high alcohol content are also often said to have a “big” or “full” body.

When it comes to wine, the body is determined by several factors, including alcohol content, tannin levels, and sugar levels.

Wines with higher alcohol levels will typically have a fuller body, while those with less alcohol will have a lighter body. While the body is often used as a descriptor of taste, it is important to note that it is not the same thing as flavor.

3. Oak

Oak is a common wine term that refers to the wooden barrels in which wine is stored. Oak barrels add flavor and character to the wine and can impact the taste, colour, and aroma of the final product.

Wine made in oak barrels tends to be richer and more full-bodied than wine made in stainless steel barrels. Oak barrels are made from a variety of different woods, including oak, cherry, and mahogany.

Each type of wood imparts different flavors and aromas to the wine. For example, oak barrels add vanilla and spice notes to wine, while cherry barrels add fruitiness and sweetness.

4. Acidity

Acidity is a common wine term that refers to the tartness or sourness of a wine. It’s caused by the presence of acids in the wine, most notably tartaric acid. Acidity gives the wine its crisp, refreshing taste and also helps to preserve it.

Too much acidity can make a wine seem harsh and unpalatable, while too little can make it taste flat and dull. The ideal acidity level for wine depends on personal preference, but generally speaking, most wines fall within the range of 4-6 pH.

5. Fruit

Fruit is a common wine term that has many different meanings. In its broadest sense, fruit refers to the natural sugars found in grapes. These sugars are what gives the wine its sweetness. However, the term can also refer to the flavors and aromas imparted by a wine’s grape variety or appellation.

Additionally, fruit can describe a wine’s body, mouthfeel, and overall structure. When tasting wine, you may notice different types of fruit flavors, such as citrus, stone fruit, or red berries. These flavors can come from the grape variety itself, or they may be imparted by the wine’s terroir or winemaking style.

6. Terroir

Terroir is a term that’s commonly used in the wine world. It refers to the idea that a wine’s flavor is influenced by the specific environment in which the grapes were grown. This includes factors like the climate, soils, and topography.

While terroir is a relatively simple concept, it’s one that can have a big impact on a wine’s flavor. Many experts believe that the terroir is what makes wines from different regions taste so distinct.

7. Vintage

Vintage is a common wine term that refers to the year in which the grapes were harvested. The weather conditions during that growing season will affect the grape’s qualities, and therefore the wine made from those grapes.

Vintage wines are usually pricier than non-vintage wines since they are considered to be of higher quality. However, there are some excellent non-vintage wines on the market, so don’t discount them entirely!

If you’re unsure whether to splurge on a vintage wine or not, ask your best wine distributors for recommendations.

8. Varietal

A varietal is a type of wine made from a specific grape variety. The term “varietal” is used to refer to both the grape variety and the wine made from it. For example, Merlot is a varietal of red wine made from the Merlot grape.

There are many different types of varietals, each with its unique flavor profile. Some of the most popular varietals include Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir. When purchasing wine, you may notice that some bottles are labeled with the varietal, while others simply list the grape variety on the label.

In general, wines that are labeled with the varietal name are made in a style that highlights the grape’s natural flavors and characteristics. Wines that simply list the grape variety on the label may be produced in a more generic style.

9. Blend

The blend is a common wine term that refers to a combination of two or more grape varieties, it can also refer to the process of combining different wines into a single bottle. Blending is an important winemaking technique that can be used to create unique flavor profiles and improve the overall quality of a wine.

There are many different ways to blend wines, but the most common method is to simply mix wines of different varieties. This can be done by hand or with the help of a machine. The resulting blend will contain all of the flavors of the individual wines, but the final flavor will be unique.

10. Decanting

Decanting is a common wine term that refers to the process of pouring wine into another container, typically a carafe or decanter. This helps to separate the clear wine from the sediment that can build up in the bottom of a bottle over time.

Decanting also allows the wine to “breathe” and can improve its flavor and aroma. There are a few different ways to decant wine.

The most important thing is to pour the wine slowly and carefully so that the sediment stays in the bottom of the bottle. You can also use a strainer or cheesecloth to catch any sediment that might be stirred up.

Speak French Wine Terms Like a Pro

Wine terminology can be confusing, but with a little practice, you’ll be sounding like a pro in no time. Use this guide as your starting point for learning about wine and don’t hesitate to ask for help when ordering wine at a restaurant or selecting bottles for your home collection. With a little knowledge and some confidence, you’ll be enjoying wines from all over the world in no time! If you are still hesitant, Paramount Liquor has well-rounded industry experts that you can ask. Don’t be shy to reach out!

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