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September 3, 2015 | By Sean Griffin

What are all these wine words? Do I need to know them?

Drinking wine is easy; talking about wine can be more difficult. Unfortunately, wine culture is often perceived as a bit snobby, due in part to the expansive array of fancy verbose terms and elaborate descriptors that comes with it. Take oenophile for example—which is simply another word for wine lover. Really? Would you ever refer to yourself this way? There are thousands of words that are used to describe wine, its characteristics and its origins. That doesn’t mean that you have to virtually learn a second language to become a wine enthusiast. However, adding a few wine words and phrases to your vocabulary can help you get the most out of your wine tastings. The secret is knowing which words are worth learning and those that are simply fancy talk.

Pop Art girl with the glass of wine with speech bubble.Wine words to know (and those you can bypass):

1. Wine varietals. Knowing the different types of wine varietals (that’s grapes to most people) that you enjoy can help you navigate most wine lists without a sommelier guiding you to the most expensive bottle on the list.

2. Terroir. This word may look a lot like the English word, “terror,” but terroir is nothing to be afraid of. This is the French wine word that means the conditions–soil, climate, topography–in which wine grapes are grown and is the reason why varietals grown in different regions taste differently.

3. Reserve. One of the most over-used words in the wine lexicon, it has come to mean any wine that a wine-maker is looking to promote. In fact, the term is used so often for so many different types of wine that it has almost lost its meaning. A true reserve wine is a small batch crafted from wine that has been set aside from previous, stellar vintages.

4. Letting a wine breathe. This term may sound silly at first, but it’s actually a pretty apt description. While you aren’t going to see a wine’s lungs inflate and deflate, a wine does take in oxygen as it’s exposed to the environment. This is especially important with complex red wines and white Bordeaux style wines.

5. Acidity. Commonly used to describe how tart a wine is. For some reason, the opposite of acidity (when describing wine) is flabby. Go figure.

6. Bouquet. Not a group of flowers, but rather the fragrance or smell of a wine.

7. Vintage. Unlike clothing or things you find on eBay, vintage in the wine world refers to the year the grapes were grown (not bottled). A non-vintage wine is made from a combination of grapes grown in several different years.

A cartoon waiter holding a silver tray with a bottle of wine and wine glasses full of wine on it doing a perfect hand sign

8. Legs. This rather silly term refers to the wine that clings to the sides of the glass when the wine is swirled.

9. Brut. You might be tempted to think a brut wine is a little heavy-handed. However, this wine term is a French word, which means dry, rather than the English, “brute.”

10. The nose of a wine. This may seem confusing, but a nose of a wine, just like the one on your face, has to do with the aroma of the wine. It’s a synonym for bouquet.

The world of wine is full of complex vocabulary and information that can sometimes be intimidating to the average wine lover. Your wine culture is what you make it, and we find the best way to learn about wine (and have fun) is to experience making it yourself. Let RJS Craft Winemaking show you how easy it is.

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5 thoughts on “What are all these wine words? Do I need to know them?”

  1. Very interesting post. It seems every endeavor – be it quilting, French cooking, or winemaking has it’s own jargon. Knowing the lingo makes for a more enjoyable dip into the waters, and marks you as one who did his homework. One must be careful not to overdo though or you come off sounding like one of the CB radio enthusiasts from the 70’s. Tenfourgoodbuddy.

  2. I am so using this as a cheat sheet! My boyfriend will be impressed! We are going to a small Italian restaurant downtown tomorrow night for a dinner date. He wants to try their new wines so I am going to drop the lingo into out conversations and see what he says!

  3. I’ve heard of letting it breathe, the vintage and acidity……I may have to brush up on my wine terminology. :/ (Or I’ll do as Britanica says, use this as a cheat sheet.) And it will be a pleasant surprise when I can speak fancy wine-speak in front of my mother-in-law….:)

    http://www.vinology.com/wine-terms/

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