When talking about wine there are various terms and descriptors used by industry professionals to describe characteristics and impressions of wines. The library of wine-terms is vast and it varies from person to person; however, most of the wine-vocabulary below is commonly accepted. Improving your vocabulary will not only help you describe you wine tasting experiences in conversations, but will also help you understand and navigate through back labels, winemaker notes and reviews by wine judges.
Acidity: An important component in wine, it give the wine its crisp and tart characteristics, brings freshness and life to wine.
Aroma: The smell of a wine. Used to distinguish the smells that come naturally from the grapes.
Aftertaste: Flavors that remain in the mouth after the wine is swallowed or spat out. Also described as “finish.”
Appassimento: An Italian style, where harvested grapes are placed in specialized rooms to dry for a few weeks to several months. Here at Falernia, Italian winemaker Giorgio Flessati leaves the grapes to dry directly on the vines for an extra 2 months after they are fully ripe. Appassimento process yields grapes with a more natural complexity, character and richness.
Balance: The wine is described as “balanced” when all components are in perfect harmony – fruit, alcohol, acidity and tannins.
Body: Sense of weight and fullness of a wine on the palate. Wines are commonly described as full-bodied, medium-bodied or light-bodied.
Bouquet: Unlike “aroma,” “bouquet” describes the smells achieved through fermentation, aging and bottle aging.
Crisp: Positive description of how “acidity” feels in white wines, which is clean and refreshing.
Complex: A complex wine is a wine that has layers of interesting aromas and flavors, ranging from rich and intense to subtle and focused that are harmonious nonetheless.
Dry: The wine that has little to no residual sugar, meaning it isn’t sweet. Dry wine can still have an impression of sweetness due to sweet aromas and flavors of fruit or flowers, but the wine is not sweet by definition.
Long: Description related to a wine’s finish/aftertaste. After you swallow or spit out the wine, the taste of it lingers in your mouth for a long time, meaning it has a long finish.
Malolactic Fermentation: Conversion of sharp, malic acid (green apple mouthfeel) in the wine to lactic acid (milk-like, buttery mouthfeel). Malolactic Fermentation results in softer more balanced wines. All Falernia red wines undergo Malolactic Fermentation.
Nose: The general smell of a wine. Aroma and/or bouquet.
Oak: Aging wine in oak barrels adds complex aroma compounds and flavors such as vanilla, spices, smoke, coffee and chocolate.
Palate: Perception of a wine after taking a sip. Aromas, flavors and texture.
Round: Texture that is smooth, well-balanced, not too much tannin.
Rich: In dry wines – full-bodied, intense ripe fruit aromas, higher alcohol content.
Tannin: Extracted from grape skins, seeds, stocks, and from oak barrels. Tannin adds drying, astringent, mouth-puckering sensation. It is a natural preservative that helps the wine age and develop. In case of Falernia red wines, tannins are softer and more approachable because the grapes are harvested later (in case of Syrah and Carménère) and because all the grapes are treated very gently during the winemaking process.
Velvety: Texture that is smooth and silky with deep aromas and flavors.