Thursday, January 10, 2008

10 Key Wine Terms to Help You Bluff with the Best

So you DO know the first thing about wine, but need to know the second. Well, try slipping these terms into you next wine discussion – preferably not all in the one sentence.

Acidity - Acidity is like the ‘pucker level’ of a wine, or how much it makes you smack your lips, or your saliva run. Acidity can add that zesty or crisp aspect to a wine, but if too acidic can make the wine appear quite tart or out of balance.

Balance – This has nothing to do with being able to remain vertical after a full day wine tasting tour. Balance is how the acidity, fruit, oak, sugar, alcohol, and tannin of a wine blend together so that the whole wine is balanced. In a well-balanced wine no one aspect should overwhelm the others.

Body - This describes the ‘weight’ of the wine in your mouth and is related to alcohol levels and fruit flavour.

Length – This is the sustained impression of the wine across the palate, once it leaves your mouth. Despite what people say length is important!

Finish - The final impression a wine leaves after you have swallowed it. Does the wine leave your mouth feeling clean, creamy, or fury?

Creamy – This is often used to describe Chardonnay or Viognier. It is a character of a wine that has undergone malolactic fermentation (a secondary fermentation). Leaving the mouth with a richness and that creamy feeling.

Oaky – This is the toasty, smoky, spice or vanilla aromas and flavours that come from aging the wine in oak barrels. Sometimes wine can be aged in French or American oak barrels, or both. Barrels made from French oak are generally thought have more subtle oak flavours than those made from American oak.

Tannin – This is predominantly a red wine term. Tannin adds to the texture of wine and gives you that furry drying feeling on your gums and inner cheeks. It’s the same mouthfeel from black tea. When there’s a lot of tannin in a wine it can make your mouth feel very dry. Tannin can come from oak, grape seeds and stalks, but mostly grape skins.

Astringent – A harsh, dry sensation in the mouth caused by high tannin or phenolic levels. People tend to use the word ‘phenolic’ to describe astringency in white wines and the word ‘tannic’ to describe astringency in red wines.

Phenolic – It is a feeling produced from a natural compound in grape skins, seeds and stalks. It can cause wine to taste bitter and harsh.

During Rich & Lingering’s private food and wine tours, these terms will be used on a random basis. Normally by the end of the day we try to keep words to single syllables.


  1. Hey..there thanks for posting this 10 key wine terms..It will really help me a lot because I'm not quite familiar to wine..

  2. Not a problem. Any other questions, dont hesitate to ask. Remember - there's no such thing as a silly question, only silly people!