10 Wine Words You Need to Know

March 31st, 2019


Acidity is a wine’s level of tartness and sourness. Wines with higher acidity are often described as crisp or refreshing. Generally speaking, whites are more acidic than reds.  Proper acid levels play one of the most critical roles in a wine being considered ‘balanced’.



Tannins come from chemicals produced within the skins, seeds, and stems of grapes and wooden barrels. They add bitterness, astringency, and complexity to wine. A tannin is not a flavor, but rather a sensation. Think of what it would feel like if you were to suck on a wet tea bag.  That dry puckering feeling throughout your whole mouth is what a high tannin wine would also feel like.



Variety and varietal are confused all the time. Variety is a noun and varietal is an adjective. Variety means type of grape. Chardonnay is a grape variety. A varietal wine is a wine that’s made primarily from a single named grape variety such as Chardonnay.



Blends are made from more than one grape variety.  Its opposite would be called a single-varietal wine.  Blending can enhance aroma, color, texture, body, and finish to create more complex wine. Take a Red Bordeaux. This blend combines Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in various proportions.



Body is how light or heavy wine feels in your mouth. There are three categories: light, medium, and full. A light bodied wine feels refreshing and light whereas a full-bodied wine feels more rich and robust.



Stop swirling and focus on the finish. Finish refers to how the flavor lingers in your mouth after you swallow.  Wines can have a short, medium, or long finish. The length of the finish can sometimes help determine the quality of a wine.


Old World & New World

Old World wines are from Europe and New World wines are from anywhere else. Most Old World wines are required by law to be labeled by their respective region while New World wines are labeled by the wines varietal.  Old World wines are often described as lighter and being higher in acid and less fruity while New World wines are often described as fruit-forward with high alcohol.



Vintage is the year when the grapes were harvested, but not necessarily the same year the wine was produced and bottled.  Vintage is most closely associated to that year’s weather patterns since this has the strongest impact on the grape taste itself.   For example a hot year may lead to grapes over ripening therefore producing wines with very high alcohol and fruit forward qualities.