As wine words go, you’ve probably guessed that “sommelier” refers to a wine expert. (And yes, you can make a living at it if you’re really passionate and determined.)
But before you get to that point, you’re going to need to speak the language. And that’s where understanding the following 10 terms comes into play.
Body refers to the weight and feel of the wine. More specifically, it is a wine’s sense of viscosity. Alcohol content largely determines the viscosity, so a wine with a higher percentage has a fuller body.
All wines have acidity. Acidity means tartness and is an important factor in wine because it provides balance. Wines with high acidity can taste sour, while low-acidic wines can taste sweet. Somewhere in the middle is ideal in the eyes of most connoisseurs.
The finish of a wine is how long the aftertaste lingers in your mouth. It’s a good indicator of the quality and age-worthiness of a wine. The best wines have a long finish, which means the flavors linger for a long time after you take a sip.
Minerality is a wine term that’s used to describe the taste of rocks, or stones, in a wine. It can also be described as a salty or mineral water taste. Wines that come from regions with high mineral content in the soil often have a minerality to them. This is especially true of wines from the Loire Valley in France.
Complexity is a term used to describe wines that have a lot going on. They often have multiple layers of flavor and aroma. These wines are usually more interesting and enjoyable to drink. Complex wines are often made from older vines and can be quite expensive.
Tannins are found in grape skins, stems, and seeds and are what gives the wine its astringent quality. Tannins can make your mouth feel dry and pucker. Wines high in tannin are often described as having good structure.
The term “barrel-aged” simply means that the wine was aged in oak barrels. This process can add flavor and complexity to the wine. Barrel-aging is a common practice in the wine world, and many winemakers believe it helps to improve the quality of the wine.
Vintage is the year the grapes were harvested. Vintage wines are of higher quality than non-vintage wines because they are made with grapes from a single year that had ideal growing conditions. Vintage wines can be quite expensive, especially if they are from a prestigious vineyard.
Decanting refers to pouring wine from its bottle into another container, typically a decanter. This is done to separate the wine from the sediment that has settled at the bottom of the bottle. It is also done to allow the wine to “breathe” and open up. Decanting can also be used to improve the flavor of a wine that is starting to taste old.
In wine tasting, we use the term “legs” in reference to the practice of swirling the wine around in its glass. If the liquid remains after being swirled, it has legs. Having legs indicates a larger percentage of alcohol contained therein.
Understanding These Wine Words Will Earn You Sommelier Status
The wine words presented here are essential if you want to achieve sommelier status. (Or, at the very least, wow your less knowledgeable friends.)
Start working them in whenever you can, and everyone will soon be asking for your opinion on which bottle to crack open. For more lifestyle info and articles, check out some of our additional posts.