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Key Wine Terms

By Published On: April 13th, 2022

Learn these Terms Before Heading Out to Wine Country

One thing that never ceases to amaze us about people in the wine business is how welcoming they are to newbies. They don’t care what you know; they just care that you’re curious to know more, and they’re eager to teach you.

If you’re planning to head out to wine country, here are some basic terms you should know for a fulfilling experience. 

Wine Terms 101 

Aroma or Nose

The way the wine smells. Some common terms used to describe the aroma or nose: floral, fruity, earthy, citrus, vegetal. 

Body

The impression of a wine’s fullness on your palate. A wine higher in alcohol will taste fuller bodied, whereas a lower-alcohol wine will tend to be lighter. In the middle? It’s medium-bodied. 

Fruit-Forward

This means you’re primarily tasting fruits—from blackberries to mangoes. California offers many fruit-forward wines. 

Jammy

When wine tastes like cooked fruit, typically berries. This can be good or bad, but jammy wine can be delicious! 

Earthy

Earthy wines are more savory. Think spice, rocks (chalk or flint are common), smoked meats, cured meats, chocolate.

Herbaceous

Wines often have dried- or fresh-herb flavors. 

Acidity

This is how astringent or sour a wine tastes. If a wine makes your mouth water, it has a nice level of acidity. If unpleasantly sharp, it’s too acidic. If flat or flabby, it lacks acidity. 

Blend

A wine featuring more than one grape type. Many Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons, for instance, contain Merlot or other grapes.  

Balance

Wines that are balanced have a harmonious blend of flavors. 

Dry

As opposed to sweet. 

Complex/Layered

A wine with overlapping flavors, some of which evolve over time in your mouth. 

Vintage

The year on the label means the year the grapes were harvested. 

Brut

Unsweet Champagne or sparkling wine. 

Extra Brut

Even more so.

Cuvée

A blended wine, often sparkling. 

Tannins

These compounds come from grapes’ skins, seeds, and stems and oak barrels used for aging. A great preservative, tannins ensure long aging. You can taste them most distinctly in red wines as a dry and lip-puckering sensation. Overly tannic wines can be bitter.

Typicity

If a Napa Cab expresses typicity, it displays all the characteristics you’d expect from that region and grape.  

Hot

When a wine is too high in alcohol, it tastes “hot.”

Vinification

The process of making wine. 

Cork Taint

If a wine tastes like musty, dusty clothing, it’s said to be “corked.”  Tainted (moldy) corks create this flavor from time to time. 

For wine lovers, the journey is as important as the knowledge. You probably know more than you think, and you’ll definitely know more after hitting the wine trail. 

Happy sipping! 

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