Wine is a wonderful thing that promotes culture, elegance, and community among enthusiasts. While the enjoyment of wine might seem like something only available to those who have a great deal of experience with the beverage, this is not true. Even the newly initiated in the wine world can become experts when describing the wine itself to make sure that the quality is not lost on those you are describing it to. The biggest concern is that wine is not subject to the same traditional language we use to describe the common drinks seen in the hands of others.
Wine has its own vernacular that requires a degree of study to understand fully. There are also certain details about the background of any given bottle that need to be considered. However, once you grasp these concepts, you will be able to describe wine with the best of any wine experts. With this article, we hope to clarify, if you will pardon the pun, on what terms you can expect to use when describing wine to others.
How to Describe Wine Flavors
Wines come with many different flavors and notes that have led to the creation of several terms to identify them. The many different wine types available can generally be listed under one of two types. First, your savory and fruity wines denote the different profiles wines can generally have as an overall flavor.
Fruity wines are generally, and erroneously, seen as the sweeter variety. In contrast, savory wines are seen as akin to the traditional, somewhat bitter wines commonly seen as the more elegant pair. Each of them has a series of terms associated with them and will have varying elements of these terms. However, there are some unique traits that you should be aware of.
To start, fruity wines are often attributed as being sweet wines. However, this is a misconception based on the fact that most fruits have sweet flavors. The reality is that fruity wines refer to the floral and fruit flavors detected within the wine. Going into a conversation with the intent to use the term “fruity” exclusively to denote wines with sweet flavors will only make you seem uninformed about wine. Unfortunately, the misconception is relatively common.
The different fruit profiles typically seen in fruity wines include:
- Red Fruit Flavors: Notes of fruits like raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, and cherries.
- Black Fruit Flavors: Notes of fruits like blackberries, black currants, plums, and figs.
- Tree Fruit Flavors: Notes of fruits like apples, pears, apricots, and peaches.
- Citrus Fruit Flavors: Notes of fruits like lemons, oranges, limes, and grapefruits.
- Tropical Fruit Flavors: Notes of fruits like mangos, melons, and pineapples.
Detecting these profiles in wine is generally a good sign that you are drinking a fruity wine. However, just because the wine is fruity does not mean it will be sweet to the taste. In fact, sweet wines have a special term in and of themselves that we discussed previously.
Savory wines, on the other hand, will have a more naturalistic flavor profile. Savory wines are wines with hints of nutty or spicy flavors, which oppose fruity wines. Savory wines will have aspects of the environment their ingredients were grown in within their overall profile. The aroma of savory wines can vary and will tend to include certain terms that we have not yet covered.
What Are the Terms?
The glossary of terms that apply to a bottle of wine is designed to offer descriptions of the profile and flavor of the wines as a whole. Knowing these terms and when to apply them is crucial to describing the wine to other experts on the beverage. Some terms are exclusive to certain wines, whereas others are all-encompassing. The distinction between these terms will help you produce a valid explanation of the wine being served with expert-like precision.
One important term you will need to understand is acidity. The acidity of a wine is an extremely important descriptor for the profile of the wine. You will typically find that the acidity is more relevant to tart and citric white wines than the red wines that are more commonly seen in “fancy” locales. The acidity of a wine is how you would describe the zest and crispness of wine to someone who had not yet tried it.
The aroma is an equally important term you can use to describe the scent of the wine being served. The aroma of a wine can be related to the type of wine, as previously discussed. For example, a fruity wine will have a fruity aroma related to the specific berries or other fruits used to produce the wine. Other aromas relate specifically to savory wines like an earthy aroma.
Speaking of which, the term “earthy” is used to describe wine in one of two ways. An earthy wine can either be a positive description for a wine with a clean scent that features a complex web of aromas relating to the ingredients in the wine. Alternatively, earthy can also negatively describe a wine with a profile that has a dirty scent or is simply unpleasant to the senses.
Another significant term that can describe wine is the “body” of a wine. The body of a wine has to do with the way the wine feels when you take a sip. How viscous is the wine? Does it feel heavy in your mouth? There are three body types for wines:
- Full-Bodied: A full-bodied wine will have an intense flavor and noticeable texture.
- Medium Bodied: A medium-bodied wine, exclusively red, has a reasonably average feel.
- Light Bodied: A light-bodied wine might cause a slight tingling sensation and are a little more refreshing than the others.
Understanding the different wine bodies will allow you to describe them as an expert. However, where there is a body, there are also legs. The leg of a wine refers to the streaks left behind in the glass when you swirl the wine around to mix the flavor properly. This term will allow you to describe the alcohol content of the wine since the more prominent the streak, the more alcohol there is. So, if you want to describe wine with high alcohol content, you will say it has strong legs.
The next term you will want to know is the balance of a wine. The balance is what you would use to describe how the three main components of wine are meshing. These components include the fruit, the acidity, and the alcohol content. If these three aspects are working harmoniously and are evened out, you could state that the wine Is evenly balanced. On the other hand, if one component is overshadowing the others, you will be able to describe the wine as overly acidic, overly fruity, or overpowered with alcohol.
Finally, there is the finish of a wine. The finish is the aftertaste left behind by the wine after taking your sip. A wine can have a smooth finish where it goes down easily, a spicy finish that leaves a tang behind, and so on. However, if the aftertaste lingers, it is known as a “long finish.”
These terms, while important, are not the sole component of being able to describe a wine with any degree of expertise. The more readily apparent traits of wine are a vital detail in describing the wine so it can be set apart from more traditional bottles. Understanding the particulars of your bottle is how you wrap up the description of the wine to those around you.
The Details of the Wine
There are two significant details about a bottle of wine that will help experts of the beverage to understand the quality fully. The first thing to be aware of is the wine’s vintage. This is a term you have likely heard several times before you became involved in wine. The vintage relates directly to the year the bottle was produced, which, with fine wines, is crucial since older vintages have had more time to mature and develop their overall profile. As a result, older wines are highly sought after since most wines mature wonderfully after years of proper storage.
For example, a 50-year-old bottle of red wine will likely appeal to the palate of connoisseurs more so than a bottle of red that is only a year old. The vintage of wine helps experts determine the value of the bottle and how much it should be appreciated. However, the vintage will only take a bottle so far.
The location in which the bottle of wine is produced is equally as important as the wine of the different regions can vary a great deal. However, certain countries can provide wines more heavily sought after than others. For example, wines produced by vineyards in Italy or France are highly valued compared to those brewed by lesser vineyards in America. However, a wine from a country like France also of an older vintage is considered a prize find amongst aficionados.
You might have noticed that most wine tastings involve identifying the notes of the wine and the age and location in which the wine is produced. This is because the location can also play a huge role in the flavor profile of the wine. This is because the soil and sediment from which the grapes grow leave an altogether unique flavor profile that can only be attributed to the wine from that specific vineyard. Being able to recognize that will enable you to successfully identify the wines from a specific year, region, and other details about the flavor of the wine.
Raise a Glass With Us
Wine is far from a simple drink. It has a life of its own that makes every bottle as unique as the people drinking it. The unique vernacular surrounding the world of wine is an interesting language that requires a fair amount of study to grasp fully. However, once you have a grip on what all the different terms mean and how they relate to the wine available, you will be able to have more in-depth conversations with those who have expertise in the world of wine than you might have at this point. Ultimately, you will be able to describe virtually any bottle once you understand the terms and details discussed here.
We at the Wine Diarist believe fully in the unifying power of wine and the culture it espouses. However, there is always more to learn about the world of wine. Be it how to store certain bottles of wine to the way certain bottles are produced. As the world grows with more and more people joining the wondrous world of wine, we believe in providing information necessary to help you reach deeper into the wine culture. If you want to learn more about what the world of wine offers, feel free to check out our website and see if any of our posts can answer your questions.
For example, if you have any questions about the decanting process of wine, we put out a beginner’s guide just the other week, which will teach you how to decant wine the correct way. You can find that article right over here.
On that same topic, maybe you have questions about how long or how often you should decant your wine. Luckily for you, we put out an article about that as well! You can find that article over here.
Or perhaps you have a relatively simple question like “what is pink prosecco?” We’ve written an article about what it is, and how you can pick one out, which you can find here.
We are aware that we have not answered every question our readers might have about wine. If you happen to be seeking knowledge we have not yet presented, feel free to leave a comment asking us what you would like to know. We are more than happy to address anything you want to know. Until then, we raise a toast to your health. Cheers to you!