Wine Vocabulary

Good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used.

– William Shakespeare

As we try to develop our palates, it’s important to develop our vocabulary along the way.  Most times, we would like to just enjoy the wine and say “I like this.”  And that’s an excellent step.  You should enjoy the wine.  And it’s definitely okay to say whether or not you like the wine.  But, it’s also important to understand what you’re tasting.  Week to week, I’ll be adding more vocabulary and ideas to help you with your palate vocabulary….in the interim, here we begin our on-line dictionary….

Sweetness – As soon as you put the wine into your mouth, you can usually notice sweetness or the lack of it.  In winespeak, dry is the opposite of sweet.  Classify the wine you’re tasting as either dry, off-dry (in other words, somewhat sweet), or sweet.

Acidity:  All wines contain acid (mainly tartaric acid, which exists in grapes…), but some wines are more acidic than others.  Acidity is more of a taste factor in white wines than n reds.  For white wines, acidity is the backbone of the wine’s taste (it gives the wine firmness in the mouth).  White wines with high amount of acidity feel crips and those without enough acidity feel flabby.  You can also sense the consequences of acidity (or the lack of it) in the overall style of the wine – whether it’s a tart little number or soft and generous sort, for example.  Classify the wine you taste as crisp, soft, or “couch potato“.

Tannin:  Tannin is a substance that exists naturally in the skins, seeds, (or pips), and stems of grapes.  Because red wines are fermented with the grape skins and pips, and because red grape varieties are generally higher in red wines than white wines.  Oak barrels can also contribute tannin to wines, both reds and whites.  Tannin is to a red wine what acidity is to a white:  a backbone.  You can describe a red wine as astringent, firm, or soft.

Body:  A wine’s body is an impression you get from the whole of the wine – not a basic taste that registers on your tongue.  It’s the impression of the weight and size of the wine in your moth, which isusually attributable principal to a wine’s alcohol.  We say “impression” because obviously, one ounce of any wine will occupy exactly the same space in your mouth and weight the sme as one ounce of any other wine.  Classify the wine as light-bodied, medium-bodied, or full-bodied.


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