What You Need to Know About Wine
• Wine is made from fermented grapes. The juice is released from the grapes by pressing or macerating them, exposing the sugars to yeast until it ferments, and then it turns into wine.
• Some wines are named based on the grape they come from (varietals, such as Pinot Noir), and some are named based on the region they originate from (like a Burgundy). Wines named based on the region can either be a single varietal, or a mix of grapes.
• Wines get their color from grape skins. Red wine is made by soaking the juice with the skins (using black/red grapes), while white wines are usually made without the grape skins (using green grapes).
• Wine labels typically have the wine producer/vineyard name, the year it was produced, the region where the grapes were grown, and the type of grape.
Terms to Talk About Wine
People use a lot of words and phrases to describe wine, and if you’re a beginner in the world of wine, they might not make a whole lot of sense. So here are some of the top terms you might come across. Use these words and you’ll sound like an expert!
• Sweet: Sweet wine is exactly what it sounds like. Some sugar remains from the fermenting process, which gives it a noticeable sweetness.
• Dry: Dry wines are the opposite of sweet wines. No sugar is left after the fermentation process, so there is no sweetness in the flavor.
• Off-Dry: A wine described as “off-dry” is somewhere between dry and sweet. Some sweetness is noticeable, but it’s not a heavily sweet wine.
• Body: Body refers to how “heavy” the wine feels in your mouth, as well as how prominent the flavors are. So a full-bodied wine will feel full and complex, while a light-bodied wine will feel lighter (more like water) and less rich. The terms “light” vs “bold” are another way to refer to this difference.
• Acidity: When talking about the acidity of wines, think about fruit. Many fruits are acidic, which makes them taste crisp or tart. The same goes for wines. The acidity will make it taste crisper and “fresh”.
• Tannins: These are present in the skins of grapes and can add bitter flavors to the wine. Tannins are mainly present in red wines, and less so in white wines. This is also what causes a drying feeling in your mouth with some wines (not to be confused with “dry wine”)
• Oak: Some wines are aged in oak barrels, which can leave an “oaky” aroma in the wine. This might come across as flavors of vanilla, spice, or smokiness.
• Bitter: Wines tend to become bitter when there is a high presence of tannins.
• Smooth: This usually means the wine has less acidity and bitterness. People might also say it’s “soft” or “round”, referring to the tannins softening (causing less bitterness) as the wine ages.