Photo by Kala Minko
From appellation to vintage, oenophiles speak a language all their own. Here are a few words you need to know to show your appreciation:
Acetic—the vinegary smell and taste in a wine that denotes it may be spoiled.
Acidic—a tart or sour taste in a young wine that influences the wine’s balance of flavors.
Appellation—the strictly defined regions where a wine’s grapes are grown. For instance, only grapes grown in the Champagne region of France can be used to make Champagne. If the grapes are grown in Napa Valley, Calif., you’re drinking sparkling wine.
Balance—the ratio of sugar, acids, tannins and alcohols to one another. If all four components are apparent but do not mask one another, a wine is considered balanced.
Barnyard—a rustic, earthy quality of some wines, especially big reds from Argentina.
Body—the fullness or weight of wine on the palate.
Bouquet—the aromas imparted by the wine after it has been bottled and aged. Bouquet develops complexity as the wine matures.
Buttery—a melted butter scent or creaminess that develops, often in Chardonnay, from malolactic fermentation.
Brut—the driest version of sparkling wine.
Chewy—a full-bodied, tannic wine.
Cloying—a wine that is “Twinkie-sweet” without the balance of alcohol, acid and bitterness.
Corked—describes a wine that has been contaminated by a tainted cork, taking on a mildewy, musty flavor. Hint: You probably don’t want to drink corked wine.
Dry—describes a wine lacking residual sugar that has a strong alcohol flavor rather than fruitiness or sweetness.
Fermentation—the process whereby yeast converts grape juice into alcohol and CO2, i.e. wine.
Finish—the wine’s lingering aftertaste on the tongue.
Foxy—describes a wine that smells and tastes just like grape juice.
Legs—the viscous sheets or rivulets that cling to and run down the inside of the glass when swirled. Full-bodied wines have slow legs; lighter ones fall fast.
Nose—another word for “bouquet” or “aroma.”
Residual sugar—this unfermented sugar in a finished wine gives a wine its sweetness. Measured in grams per liter, the lower its levels, the dryer the wine.
Tannin—the bitterness mostly found in red wines, derived from grape skins, seeds and stems and used to preserve wines as they age.
Terroir—the sense of place created by the microclimate (including the soil, geography, sunlight, rainfall and growing season) that influences the grape and, therefore, the complexity of the wine. Consistency is not wine’s strong suit, and terroir explains why.
Trocken—German for “dry.” It is a term of classification for German and Austrian wines related to the amount of residual sugar allowed per gram.
Vintage—the year a wine was made.