If you have ever wondered what people mean when they say wine is full-bodied or tannic, then this basic wine guide is the appropriate blog for you. Over the next reading, I’ll introduce you to some of the basic terms that wine professionals use to discuss wine. After you’ve read this episode, I recommend that you check out some of our other resources on ourvineyardcottage.com and continue to learn about wine and enjoy it. Many of us drink wine daily, whether it’s to celebrate special occasions or when we gather with friends or enhance a meal. Despite this, wine remains a somewhat intimidating topic. So if you’ve ever walked into a wine store and felt completely intimidated by the choices, or if you’ve ever picked wine simply because you like the label, this wine blog is for you.
What Will You Learn In This Basic Wine Guide?
First of all, the blog will define and explain some of the commonly used terms in the wine industry. It will help you ask better questions to decide whether you might like a particular kind of wine and why and it will help you become more comfortable when you choose wine, whether it’s in a wine store or a restaurant. All of this will also help you build a framework for learning about wine. It will help you get a good foundation so that you’ll have this foundation to place things in as you keep learning more about the wine. You’ll be able to relate what you’re learning to what you already know, which is the best way to learn and remember things before we go on to start defining some of the terms used to describe wine.
Type Of Wine
The basic wine guide should briefly talk about types of wine and narrow down the topic of this blog. Probably the largest category of wine is table wine.
Table wine is most simply defined as the fermented juice of grapes, and as we see here, it can be red wine, white, or rose. Table wine is what this blog will focus on, and in particular, we’ll be talking mostly about red and white wines. Some of the terms that we’ll learn and descriptions will apply to Rose as well, but we won’t necessarily discuss Rose in any detail.
Another big category of wine is our sparkling wines, and sparkling wine is simply a table wine with carbon dioxide with bubbles.
And then there is the fortified wine which is table wine that has added spirit.
As I said, this basic wine guide will focus on table wine. So to describe wine and to define the terms used to describe wine, let’s briefly talk about how we experience wine. First of all, we see the wine when it’s poured into the glass. We also swirl and smell it usually before taking a sip. Then we tasted it, and based on all of these things, we formed an overall impression of the wine, and we decided whether we liked it or not.
As I said, sight is the first thing we experience with wine. So we see the wine as it’s poured into the glass. One of the things we notice, of course, is the color of the wine, depending on whether the wine is white or red. Obviously, the color is very different. Even among white wines, there is a range of colors. So white wines range from pale all the way to golden yellow. Red wines range from purple all the way to intensive red.
Another thing that you’ll notice is the intensity of the color of the wine. So some wines are light in color even though they’re red. And you can almost see through them. Other wines are more profound still; others are practically opaque to where you literally can’t see through the wine that’s poured into a glass. Another part of seeing wine is also looking for sediment in the glass. Some wines will have sediment. These days those are very few and far between. Most wines will be clear, especially white wines. The vast majority of white wines are clear. Sometimes you’ll drink wine that might not have been filtered. White wine, if it’s not filtered, might have a little bit of sediment. It’s important to remember that sediment is not undesirable in wine. However, if you feel uncomfortable drinking it, it’s lovely to leave a little bit of wine at the bottom of the glass to avoid this sediment. Sediment is a little more common in red wines, especially red wines that are aged a little bit. And again, it’s beautiful to leave it in the glass even though it’s not an undesirable thing. To avoid sediment, wine is sometimes decanted.
The next thing after we see wine is smelling it. And as you probably already know, before smelling wine, it’s a good idea to swirl the glass. That’s why it’s important not to put too much wine in the glass so you can swirl. When you swirl the glass, you release the wine’s aroma, so it’s easier to detect those aromas. Smelling wine is probably one of the more intimidating parts of experiencing wine. We’ve all seen wine professionals and people who know about wine smelling the wine and then using some very specific terms to describe it. Including things like dried rose petals likey even things like wet socks. And this can be confusing and can sometimes be intimidating. So let’s talk about some general categories of aromas that are found in wine. And remember that these are just suggestions. Smelling wine is obviously a subjective experience. So while most of us can agree on some general aromas, we discover in a wine part of what you’re smelling will depend on your experiences. Some people just have a better memory of smells than others. But the good news is that as you learn more and as you start paying more attention to wine and the aromas in wine and the aromas in other substances in your daily lives, you’ll be better at describing what you smell in wine.
Here Are Some General Categories of Aromas Found in Basic Wine Guide
The first one, of course, is fruit, and that can be berries such as strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. It can be tropical fruit. It can be citrus. It can be tree fruit like apples and pears. Another broad category of aromas in wine is minerals. These are more common in white wines. Another common category is spices, cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, orange, etc. Wine can also have floral smells, such as rose orange and blossom violet. Sometimes wine can smell of vegetables like olives and asparagus in bell pepper and mushroom. It can have earthy aromas. It can have aromas of dust or mud or forest floor. There are many other aromas, too—cigar leather, cedar tar-black tea tobacco. So as you start learning about wine and experiencing more wines, try to think of what the aromas in that particular wine remind you of my suggestion, when smelling wine, to swirl it and then close your eyes when you smell it. This helps you not be distracted by what’s happening around you and focus more on what you’re smelling in the glass. So feel free to close your eyes take the first whiff, then take a little break and take another whiff. Because often what we smell first is confirmed, but the second try can disconfirm it. So take one whiff, take a little break, smell the wine again, and think of what it reminds you. What types of aromas do you detect? As I said, smelling wine and talking about it can be intimidating.
Practice With Your Friends
But it’s fun to practice with your friends because other people might discover aromas that you didn’t think of—or talk through wine with your friends in a nonintimidating atmosphere. It can help you become better at describing what you’re smelling. So after looking at wine in a glass and smelling it, we usually move on to tasting it. For most people who are not wine professionals, this is the most enjoyable part of drinking wine. Most of us decide whether we like wine or not based on what we taste.
Let’s talk about some general terms that are used to describe how wine taste in the mouth. One of the most commonly used terms for describing wine is dryness. So we say wine is dry wine can be dry or off-dry, or sweet. This is also one of the most commonly misused terms. So let’s talk a little bit about what it means when somebody says wine is dry. Wine is dry if it has no detectable sugar. Wine professionals call that residual sugar, but don’t worry about it for now. So wine can be dry when you cannot detect any sweetness. It is off-dry if there’s just a little bit of sweetness, or it can be sweet. Sweet is usually a dessert wine. Now the confusion comes in because many people identify what they smell in a wine glass with dryness. So if you smell things like melon or papaya or any fruit, you might automatically think that the wine is not dry and that it is sweet. That’s not necessarily the case. Wine can smell perfectly well of a range of fruits, including some that are very sweet, like ripe melon or papaya, and still be a dry wine. Dry simply refers to the way the wine tastes in the mouth. If there is no sugar in the wine, it is dry. The vast majority of wines, whether white or red, are completely dry.
There are some notable exceptions. So, for example, all dessert wines are sweet. Then there are some table wines, such as Riesling, that can be off-dry. But the vast majority of wine is dry.
Another term commonly used to describe wine is acidity. Regarding acidity, wines can be low, medium, or high in acidity. Acidity is the feeling in the mouth that makes you salivate. So after you’ve swallowed a sip of wine and if you feel saliva forming in your mouth, it means the wine is high in acidity. Acidity is felt on the sides of the tongue. So try tasting a couple of wines and see what happens in your mouth after you swallow them. White wines tend to be a little higher in acidity than red wines, or I guess that acidity is more detectable in white wines. In red wines, other components come into play that makes acidity a little less obvious.
One of those components is tannin which is the next thing we’ll talk about. We often hear this term. It’s not often explained what it means. Tannin is simply a substance found in red wines that come from the skins of the grapes. It can come from the barrel the wine is aged in. Wines can have low, medium, or high tannin. White wines have no tannin, so we don’t use the word tannin when we talk about white wines. We only refer to tannin when discussing red wines, and tannin is that feeling of dryness that wine gives you sometimes. If it’s present in high amounts makes your cheeks stick to your gums almost. It’s the same feeling you have when you’re drinking tea that’s been steeped for too long. So if you’re drinking black tea that’s too strong, there’s a drawing sensation in your mouth after you take a sip of tea. That same drying sensation is indicative of the presence of tannins in red wine.
Another term commonly used to describe wines is the body. So we hear that wines can be light or medium, or full in body. Often it’s not clear what that means. The body simply refers to how the wine feels in your mouth, and you can think of it regarding viscosity, if you will. So light wines have that light, crisp, refreshing feeling in the mouth. When you swallow them, you don’t necessarily get anything lingering in your mouth. At the same time, full-bodied wines can almost taste chewy. They’re so thick and viscous in your mouth. So white wines can be anywhere from light to full. The vast majority of them will be light to medium. A lot of red wines are medium in body. Also, red wine is often full-bodied. For example, Latin Cabernet Sauvignon would be an old-bodied wine. So we said that when we’re experiencing wine, we see it, smell it, we taste it. Based on all of these things, we form an overall impression of the wine. And what this means is simply we decide if we like the wine or not. So we drink wine, take a sip, and say, oh, this is great. I like this wine, and we can like it for a variety of reasons.
Another issue when evaluating wine and your overall impression of it is it worth the price. Because it’s one thing to like wine, it’s another thing to be willing to pay the price for it. For example, if the wine is light embodied and sort of an everyday wine, we might like it and agree to spend maybe 10 to 15 dollars for it. But we would never pay $50 for the same bottle of wine. So we decide whether we like the wine, but we also need to think about what the price is and whether we think that wine is worth that price.
Conclusion on Basic Wine Guide
So what did we learn in this blog? First, we learned that there are three main categories of wine. Table wine, sparkling wine, and fortified wine. And again, this blog focused only on table wine and mainly on reds and whites. We also learned the four main aspects of how we evaluate wine by sight, smell, taste, and overall impression. We learned some tasting terms that are important and that we hear every day, such as dryness, acidity, tannin, and body. And you can apply all of these things the next time you’re buying wine, whether it’s in a store or a restaurant. The next time you’re talking to your friends about wine, give them recommendations or get recommendations from them. These terms are beneficial. The more wine you taste and the more practice you get in using these terms, the better able you’ll be to decide if you’ll like a particular kind of wine when it’s described to you.