If you feel like you need a personal translator for ‘wine speak’ you’re not alone. Understanding wine terms can take some practice. We’ve come up with translations for 15 popular terms to help you navigate.
Acidity: Acidity refers to the zestiness of the wine. Do you taste a tart zing when the wine touches your tongue? That’s acidity. Crisp is a popular word to describe acidity. White wines tend to be more acidic than red wines. Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand has become a famously acidic group of wines.
Big: Big wines feel like they take up every inch of your mouth when tasted. Wines with lots of rich flavours and complexities tend to be described as big.
Buttery: A wine with rich, creamy flavours. Buttery can refer to both the flavours and the texture. Chardonnay is typically a buttery wine.
Complex: A general term to describe wine which evolves in your mouth. The taste lingers and sinks into your tongue while flavours continue to change and develop.
Creamy: Creamy is a common descriptor of Chardonnay and Champagne. Creamy refers to the rich and smooth texture of the wine. This is
Big: Commonly interchanged with the term acidity. Crisp refers to a pleasant level of acidity in the wine. This term is typically used to describe a fresh white wine.
Earthy: Earthy wines give off a garden soil aroma or flavour. Too much isn’t a good thing. Some wine drinkers may use this to nicely criticize the wine. A touch of earthiness in wine can be nice but too much can be a turn off.
Elegant: Elegant wines show balance and finesse. These wines are very pleasant to drink with no overriding characteristic.
Minerality: Minerality: A hotly debated term since it hasn’t been decided what causes minerality in a wine and what exactly it describes. Typically, minerality refers to the smell or taste of the wine as similar to crushed minerals, stones or wet stones.
Oaked: Oak barrels which many wines are fermented in play a tremendous role in the final product. The type of barrel (where it comes from, how large it is, how new it is) all plays a role in how oak interacts with the wine and contributes to the flavours of the wine. Popular flavours as a result of oak are vanilla, mocha, toffee or even honey. Unoaked wines are the opposite and usually resemble wines with minerality.
Opulent: Wines described as opulent are rich, lush and layered with flavour.
Structured: Structure is the foundation upon which the wine develops. Structure describes the balance between texture and aroma. Good wine requires good structure; not too much and not too little. Too much and it will be difficult to drink. Too little and the wine will wash right over your tongue with no particular enjoyment.
Tannin: Tannin comes from the skins of the grapes which produce the wine. The presence of tannin in wine refers to its texture. The more tannin present in the wine the more you will feel the inside of your mouth become dry when tasting this wine. It’s a similar experience to drinking black coffee with no milk or sugar.
Tight: This term usually refers to a wine which is closed and not showing its true flavours. Wines described as tight are typically young and too early to drink. If you are confronted with a tight wine, let it breathe. You can pour it into a glass and swirl or pour it into a decanter.
Velvety: Velvety refers to the texture of the wine. These wines are lush and silky. Think of velvet cloth touching your skin; velvety wine provides a similar experience with the wine on your tongue.