Hints and tips

Wine Lingo Decoded

Ever wonder what in the world someone is trying to say when they talk about wine? Or worse, ever feel paralyzed when someone asks you to describe what you like in a wine, or the wine you're drinking? Worry no more because we've got you covered with our easily digestible guide to wine lingo.


By Alexandra Newman - Le Petit Ballon
2017/01/29, 03:30 AM

Wine Lingo Decoded

"I get a strong aroma of fresh cut garden hose on the nose, and notes of ripe mango on the palate."  ~ Wine snobs

Acidity: You know how some wines simply make your mouth start to water when you taste them? That's the sensation of acidity in a wine! Acidity will feel refreshing and crisp as it cleanses your palate and makes you want to come back for another sip (or two - who's counting!?).

Balance: A wine is balanced when one flavor or quality doesn't stick out among the rest. Balance comes from the harmony of different qualities coming together to create something pleasant. Imagine the difference between someone playing a single note on a piano vs. a chord - that's the beauty of balance.

Body: This refers to the weight of a wine in your mouth. Does the wine make you feel like you just took a sip of water, or does it feel more like whole milk?

Bouquet: A nice way to refer to the combination of aromas you smell in a wine.

Earthy: This is used to describe wines that do not have “fruit-forward” flavors (see below). Does the wine actually smell like wet grass, soil, or maybe even a barn? Before you run for the door - keep in mind that earthy flavors can give an attractive complexity to a wine and even help them pair with different foods.

Fruit-forward: Wines that taste and smell of ripe fruit (or even fruit conserves) can be described as fruit-forward. These are typically younger wines from warmer regions and are easy to enjoy on their own.

Flabby: Nothing to do with needing a diet! Flabby refers to a wine that is lacking ‘acidity’ and feels a bit like a deflated balloon in your mouth.

Finish: Despite what you might be thinking, this isn’t when you’ve finished the bottle of wine! Finish refers to the length of the aftertaste for a single sip of wine. Does the flavor linger in your mouth for 5, 10, or even 20 seconds? A long finish is a sign of a high quality wine!

Nose: The word "nose" is to describe the smell of the wine in the glass. You might hear, “The nose on this wine is quite beautiful with scents of white flowers, peach…”

Oaky: When a wine is aged in oak barrels it can take on gorgeous aromas of nutmeg, cinnamon, all-spice, caramel and toast. Sometimes this can become overpowering (like when the wine was aged in brand new oak barrels that overpowered the other qualities of a particular wine). If the only aroma you get “on the nose” is oak, then it’s out of balance.

Palate: It’s not a paint palette, but it’s similar. It’s the different “colors” or flavors that you taste. If “nose” equals aromas, then “palate” equals tastes.

Tannins: Tannins are a biomolecule found in grape skins, seeds, and stems. They can also come from the wood a wine was aged or fermented in. Tannins add structure to the wine, but when there are too many it will feel like your mouth is dried out, or like you have cotton balls in your cheeks! They are primarily found in red wine as the juice spends more time in contact with all of these elements during the fermentation and aging process.

Not convinced that you can chat about and enjoy wine without all the jargon? See how boring... I mean interesting... an "expert" can sound!

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