Wine Vocabulary Guide for Beginners

image of wine

Unless you are well versed in the language of wine, you probably won’t know what tannin is, let alone how to explain what it is.

Wine is already quite complicated. Throw into the mix an extensive vocabulary to explain such complexities and you have a nightmare on your hands.

Unless you know what this vocabulary means. All it takes is a little practice, and you’ll be able to pinpoint mouthfeel, appellations, and bouquets in no time.

Taste Vocabulary

image of wine tasting

Palate

So what does palate mean when it comes to wine tasting? Your palate is just a fancy way of saying flavor perception.

Thus, our palate is a combination of our sense of taste along with our sense of smell. It’s rare for two people to have the same perception, so palates are highly unique to every individual.

Mouthfeel

Mouthfeel refers to how the wine feels in the mouth. This term is not very complicated at all.

It’s a culmination of many factors including acid, flavor, alcohol, and tannin.

Body

Body and mouthfeel are practically the same things, but don’t let a wine snob hear you say that.

Similar to mouthfeel, body is a culmination of several factors.

It’s a way to describe the texture, whether a wine feels smooth or flavor if you feel a particular flavor really packs a punch.

Tannin

If you’ve tried red wine, then you’ve most likely tasted tannins for yourself. If you’re not a wine connoisseur, however, then you probably don’t know you’re tasting tannin.

Tannin is a taste that resembles over-steeped black tea: it’s bitter, bland, and yet folks still seem to seek out the most tannic wine they can find.

Acidity

Most of us know the feeling when we put something sour in our mouths and instinctively salivate.

When a wine is particularly acidic, you’ll elicit the same response.  

Finish

Here’s an easy way to remember what finish means. A wine’s finish is a wine’s taste after you finish it.

It describes how long the flavor lasts on your tongue after you swallow and any residual flavors you get on the palate.

Location Vocabulary

image of a wine vineyard

Appellation

In reference to wine, the appellation is a term used to describe a specified region.

Though appellation can refer to the wine type, like Bordeaux for example, it’s also used in reference to coffee, chocolate, or other region-specific items.

Terroir

Normally you’ll hear people say that a wine is reflective of their terroir.

Terroir is another word to describe the geographical factors of a wine. This includes the region in which it’s grown, weather, soil, and topography.

Smell Vocabulary

image of the sense of smell

Aroma

The aroma of a wine is what you smell.

You can describe a wine’s aroma the same way you would describe the aroma of a candle or your favorite meal.

People will usually refer to a wine’s aroma as being fruity, earthy, floral, etc.

Bouquet

No, we’re not talking about a bouquet of flowers, though flowers may be what you smell in a bouquet.

Let’s clear things up a bit.

Wine terminology refers to a bouquet as the complex aromas of an aged or matured wine.

Corked

When a wine smells or tastes corked, this means that the wine has been contaminated by a chemical compound found in the cork itself.

The smell can resemble an old musty book or moldy room that has never seen the light of day. The flavors in wine won’t present themselves in a corked wine and will instead smell and taste quite dull.

Oxidized

Oxidized wine is a wine that has been exposed to air for too long.

It will start to turn a brick-brown color and take on different flavors. Expose it to air long enough and it will inevitably turn into vinegar.

More Vocabulary

image of a wine's varietal and vintage

Varietal

Varietal in wine vocabulary means wine type.

For example, if you were to ask someone what grape varietal they were drinking, they could respond with Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Grigio.

Vintage

Vintage refers to the year that grapes were harvested.

Some harvest years may be more successful than the previous. This would indicate a better tasting wine and vice versa.

Conclusion

Wine can be best described as tricky at best, a labyrinth of complexities at worst.

There are so many terms to denote little things that we could easily say in simpler words. However, because we’re talking about wine, simple is out of the equation.

Chances of turning into a wine connoisseur overnight are next to nil. But taking the time to develop your wine vocabulary is a step in the right direction.


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