Wine has a language all its own, and learning it can be like learning a foreign language — even when the terms are 100% English.
Becoming familiar with the 10 terms that follow can go a long way toward increasing your enjoyment of wine, not to mention making you the smartest person at your next dinner party…
- Swirl. This is the first thing you should do after pouring wine in a wine glass — which means you should not fill that glass much more than half-way. Swirling releases the aromas of the wine.
- Sniff. Once those aromas are released, it’s time to stick your nose deep in the glass (another reason not to fill it much more than half-way) and take several short sniffs. This is the best way to see what the wine smells like, including its fruit-like aromas, as well as those that may have been created during the fermentation and aging processes.
- Slurp. Take a sip of wine into your mouth, but don’t swallow it. Instead, allow it to coat your tongue, and then “gargle” it before swallowing. This will serve to aerate the wine and release its flavors.
- Finish. This is the impression the wine creates after it has been swallowed. It can be long and lingering, or quite short. A long finish generally is an indicator of a high-quality wine, although a short finish need not be indicative of a lesser-quality one.
- Dry. This is not the opposite of “wet.” Rather, it is a wine containing no more than 0.2% unfermented sugar, a.k.a. residual sugar.
- Malolactic Fermentation. This is a secondary fermentation, typically taking place in barrels, whereby harsher malic acid is converted into creamier lactic acid. If you like the “creamy” style of Chardonnay, you have experienced wines that have undergone this procedure.
- Oaky. A term used to describe woody aromas and flavors that are imparted either through barrel fermentation, barrel aging, or both. Other “impressions” commonly found in oaky wines may include toast and buttered popcorn. (Yum!)
- Reserva. A Spanish term for a red wine that has spent at least three years in barrels and bottles prior to being released.
- Reserve. A term found on many American wine labels, but that has no “legal” meaning. It typically is a reference to a winery’s higher-end wines, but because the term is not regulated, the actual meaning may vary from winemaker to winemaker.
- Silky. A term used to describe a wine with an especially smooth mouthfeel. Pinot Noir is the variety most commonly described as silky, and that’s one of several “S” words associated with Pinot. Others include smooth… seductive… and sensuous.