Wine Terms: A Primer

Wine Terms: A Primer

You know the guy. The one who swirls a glass of red, sniffs it and then describes it in some deeply insightful way. You're thinking, “Really?" But knowing how to talk about wine is vital to enjoying it. When you've developed your wine lexicon, you'll be able to tell others what you enjoy. And understanding others' descriptions means you'll open yourself up to a whole new world of wine. Here are a few key words to get you started.


Aroma – Just what it sounds like, aroma is the smell of a wine. Your nose is a powerful tool when describing wine. Here is where you'll pick up scents of chocolate, fruit, or flowers, depending on the grape, region and winemaking techniques...


Body – Body is the way to describe the weight of a wine when it's in your mouth. Several factors can determine a wine's body, but the alcohol content of a wine is usually the primary factor: the higher the alcohol, the fuller the body. Malbec tends to be medium- to full-bodied.


Finish – After you swallow, you should still be able to discern the flavors of that wine. That lasting taste is called finish. A long finish is a hallmark of a nice wine. A bad finish? Well, that's like a visit gone bad and the horrible experience lingers on. You won't try that wine again. (Or invite that person back. Ever.)


Tannic – When a red wine is young, the wine in your mouth may feel firm and rough and even slightly bitter.  This means that the wine is high in tannins or described as tannic. Tannins tend to mellow out with time, so it's usually best to let these wines age a bit more before drinking.


New World – Instead of bringing a Bordeaux to the dinner party, sometimes it's fun to say, "Check out this Auckland Gewürztraminer I found." New World wines refer to those produced in regions other than Europe. These wines have their own personality and are often characterized as being fruit-forward. Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States are among those classified as New World regions.


Old World – European wine regions, including Spain, Germany, Italy and France, are known as Old World. Because, well, they've been producing classically outstanding wine for a long, long time.


Terroir – That dirt you're standing on. That sun beating down. Terroir refers to the environment where a wine is made, from climate to soil to topography. All of that and more affect how a wine tastes and distinguishes one wine from another.

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