A Wine Vocabulary List
Ever listened to winespeak? It's punctuated with talk of tannins, acidity, body, and vintage. Here are some terms that can help you talk like an oenophile when buying wine:
Acidity: A component of grapes that lends a refreshing or crisp quality to the wine.
Aging: Purposefully holding wine in barrels, tanks, or bottles until it's in a most desirable state.
Barrel: A cask, around 50 gallons in size,used to hold wine for fermentation. Barrels can be made of steel or oak.
Body: A term used to describe the feel or weight of a wine in the mouth. Wines can be light-, medium-, or full-bodied. For example, pinot grigio is light-bodied, Riesling is medium-bodied, and oaked chardonnay is full-bodied.
Decanting: The act of pouring wine from the bottle into a carafe or decanter before drinking. Decanting softens a heavy wine by adding oxygen to it.
Fermentation: The process of using yeast to convert grape sugars into alcohol. In short, fermentation turns grape juice into wine.
French oak: The traditional oak barrel that imparts vanilla and butter flavors to the wine. French oak barrels are more expensive than steel and even more expensive than American oak.
Oaky: A term describing the flavor and aroma present in wine aged in oak barrels. Connoisseurs also describe oaky wine as toasty, vanilla, and smoky.
Sommelier: The French term for a wine waiter. Today, sommeliers are trained to oversee a restaurant's wine list and suggest wine and food pairings.
Sulfites: Winemakers may use a small amount of naturally occurring sulfur dioxide to preserve the wine. Sulfites make it possible to age wines for a long period of time. However, some people get headaches when drinking wine made with the compound. Sulfite-free wine solves the problem but results in a shorter shelf life; unopened sulfite-free wine may last only a year and a half at the most.
Tannins: The substances that create a mouth-puckering, drying quality that results from fermenting grape juice with skins, seeds, and pulp.
Vintage: The year in which the grapes were harvested.