Ever wondered why you heard your friend describe wine, a liquid, as dry? Is color the only difference between red and white wine? Here are the basic terms you need to learn so you can impress the waiter and your wine connoisseur friend.
Mouthfeel – This is the description of how the wine feels in the mouth by taking into account its acidity, alcohol content, tannins and the sweetness or dryness.
Sweet – Sweet wines have high residual sugar. The grapes are either picked when they are mature or the fermentation process is stopped before it is complete so that all the sugar can’t be converted into alcohol.
Dry – Dry wines have little to no residual sugar content, usually no more than .2%. Most of the sugar has been converted to alcohol during the fermentation process.
Body or Weight – This is the feel of the wine in the mouth influenced primarily by its alcohol content. There are three categories of wine body; light, medium and full. Light-bodied wines have the least alcohol percentage.
Acidity – This refers to the crispiness and liveliness of the wine that affects its longevity and balance. Wines are generally acidic with pH levels between 2.5 to 4.5. You can determine the acidity by the sour taste.
Alcohol – Ethyl alcohol is the end-product of the interaction of yeast and the sugar from grapes. Light-bodied wines have less than 12.5% alcohol content while full-bodied wines have more than 13.5%.
Tannins – These are compounds called polyphenols found in the grape skins, seeds and stems. These are released when they are soaked in the grape juice after the grapes are pressed. You can feel the tannins when you taste bitterness in your tongue and the front of your mouth feels dry.
Vintage – This refers to the year when the grapes were harvested. A vintage wine for example is made from the grapes all grown and harvested in a specific year.
Aging – The process of buying wines to be stored before consumption is called aging. Connoisseurs however would tell you that only premium wines should be aged.
Aeration – Aeration can trigger either oxidation or evaporation in wines. Oxidation makes the wine less aromatic and less flavorful. Evaporation can help remove other unwanted compounds in the wine, leaving only the aroma and flavor.
Decant – The technique of transferring wine from one bottle to another to aeriate a wine that hasn’t aged yet. It is also used to separate the sediment in an older wine.
Fermentation – The name of the process which turns the sugar in grape juice into ethyl alcohol by interacting with yeast. It is usually done in stainless steel tanks. Barrel fermentation takes place in barrels to give it an oaky flavor.
Oaky – The distinct smell and flavor of the wine that comes from being barrel-aged. White wines become yellower, while red wines acquire a dark red color after it sits in the oak for a long time.
Terroir – The French word for the characteristics that describe the climate, soil and other environment factors where the wine is grown and produced. The area where the grapes and grown and processed affect the taste of the wine.