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Wine for all: 5 Basic wine terms that you should know

Updated: Aug 4, 2020

One of the main reasons people stay away from wine - not daring to drink, go to tastings or order it in a restaurant - is for fear of the unknown. Many fear looking foolish, making a mistake and spending money in vain.

Unfortunately, in the world of wine, presumption is easily found (often without appropriate knowledge), and though there are people who use wine as an excuse to be pretentious, wine is anything but pretentious. I believe there is a wine for everyone! And you will soon discover which one is right for you.

An introducing into the world of wine may start with one simple step: learning and getting familiar with new terms and using them appropriately.

I am here to help you on your journey of learning more about the world of wine. So, today I will teach you 5 basic wine terms that you should know to elevate and enjoy your wine experience.

1. Tears or Legs

The "threads" of wine that run down the inner walls of the glass. They give us clues about the degree of alcohol, since its main component is glycerol. The denser the wine, the slower the tears (or legs) fall, and that means the alcoholic content is probably higher.

In England they are usually known as "legs" and in Germany as "gothic windows."

2. Tannicity

A characteristic of red wines. It is the sensation of astringency or dryness on the palate, gums and cheeks. Tannins are organic substances (polyphenols) that come from the grape skin (the reason red wines are red) and it is not the same in all grape varieties. It is important because its function is to provide structure to the wine. Tannins evolve the longer the aging time, so the astringency sensation is usually more pleasant in an aged wine.

3. Acidity

The "backbone" of wines. It is essential for a wine’s preservation. Tartaric, malic and citric acids mainly come from grapes, while lactic, succinic and acetic acids come from fermentation. The acidity is the sensation of freshness that produces salivation.

4. Sweetness

Most wines are dry, and the perception of sweetness is nothing more than the same fruit making itself present (also, it’s more correct to call them fruity).

In some cases, sweetness (or fruitiness) will be accompanied by a buttery or smooth sensation. The sugars of the fruit are transformed into alcohol during the fermentation process, and sometimes residual sugar remains in the wine. By law, a dry wine contains less than 4g/l of residual sugar.

However, there are wines that are considered sweet, and can be due to various factors, such as a late harvest.

5. Body

The degree of intensity of the set of sensations that a wine produces, and a parameter that refers to the consistency of the wine.

Although there are exceptions, a wine with more body will be more highly valued.

Tasting tells us how much body a wine has. Generally, this factor goes hand in hand with balance (which refers to the fact that the acidity, sweetness, alcohol nor tannicity stands out aggressively).

So, next time you are at a wine tasting or in a restaurant, or you’re simply pouring yourself a glass of wine, you will know these basic terms, and exactly what they mean; and you are sure to enjoy your experience even more!


Don't forget to check 3 myths about wine from Sommelier Monica Cortes!

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