The basic wine terms might be very useful during vacations, especially in Europe, with its ancient grape-culture. It is not necessary to get in-depth, but below there are some terms we would recommend to keep in mind, while entering a restaurant in Italy or France, or Spain.
In reality the wine terms in these countries could be traces to days of Roman Empire and beyond, however for a tourist it would be beneficiary to master some basics. Here are the basics to make your conversation with a sommelier a meaningful experience:)
- Tanins – Naturally occurring compounds in grape seeds, skin and stems that will make wine taste “astringent and dry.” Bitterness in red wine is what is called tannin.
- Varietal – The type of grape that your wine is made from. From Cabernet Sauvignon to Chardonnay, varietals are the most common wine identifiers.
- Terroir – How the environment grapes are grown in affects the taste of your wine, from soil to climate.
- Oaky – One of the most famous descriptors of wine. It’s when your wine has wooden undertones, usually thanks to the barrels it was aged in.
- Bouquet – the terms wine aroma and wine bouquet are not exactly scientific but they can be useful to classify the origin of where the smells come from in wine. A wine aroma is derived from the grape variety and a wine bouquet is derived from the winemaking process of fermentation and aging. A classic example of a wine bouquet is the smell of vanilla, which usually comes from aging wine in new oak barrels.
- Sweet vs. dry – Sweet wines are usually easier for novices to swallow than drier wines. Dry wines have more undertones of tanins and may make your mouth feel more sensations.
- Light vs. full-bodied – Lighter-bodied wines go with light dinners and summertime. They usually have higher acidity and lower tanins. Fuller-bodied wines go with a steak dinner and cold winter nights. They are low in acidity and drier.
- Finish – The aftertaste of wine. Does the taste last for a while after you swallow? This is the difference between a short finish and a long finish. Simpler wines tend to have a shorter finish, while more complex or older wines tend to have a longer finish.