FROM ACIDITY TO TANNINS, HERE ARE SOME OF THE KEY TERMS YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BETTER UNDERSTAND WINE REVIEWS AND IMPROVE YOUR DRINKING EXPERIENCE.
Acidity – Acidity is what makes wines taste sour and tart. All wines are on the acidic side of the PH spectrum, though It is easier to pick up in young whites like Semillon or Riesling. Wines that are low in acidity tend to taste flat and dull. Wines from colder climates like Tasmania tend to be more acidic than those from warmer climates like the Barossa. Some grapes are also more acidic than others.
Alcohol – Another major component of wine and, lets be honest, the reason a lot of people drink it. Alcohol levels in wine can vary greatly depending on variety and climate. Some German rieslings, for instance, clock in at around 8% alcohol while certain beefy Aussie Shirazes can soar past 16%. Most reds are between 13% to 15% alcohol, while most whites are around 11% to 13%.
Balance – The single most important factor in determining the quality of a wine. In a great wine, the major components – acidity, alcohol, sugar and tannins – will be in balance with each other. An unbalanced wine will come across as jarring acidic, overly hot from the alcohol, sickly sweet or harshly astringent. That’s not to say that one component can’t stand out. For instance, a wine may be quite acidic but have just enough sweetness to ensure it remains a pleasant drink. If you need an example, think of the difference between lemon juice and (traditional) lemonade.
Body – This refers to the overall feel of a wine in the mouth. Wines are usually described as light bodied, medium bodied or full bodied. Light-bodied wines feel thinner and closer to water while full-bodied wines feel heavier and thicker. Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc are good examples of light-bodied wines. Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are classic examples of full-bodied wines.
Floral – A tasting term for flowery aromas in wine. Common descriptors include honeysuckle, rose, violets and white flowers.
Fruity – This is a catch-all term for flavour descriptors that include raspberries, cherry, blackberries, lemon, peaches, melon and many more.
Length – A tasting term that refers to how long a wine’s flavours linger in the mouth after swallowing. A “long” finish is usually considered a positive trait. However, it is also possible for a wine to have good length and still taste bad.
Mineral/Minerality – Another tasting term. It refers to the the smells and flavours that are reminiscent of rocks, minerals and the like. Common terms include chalky, saline, ferrous and even petrichor.
Tannins – This is what gives wine its texture. Many foods and plants contain tannins but they find their way into wine mostly via grape skins, seeds and stems. They are mostly a factor in red wines, though certain whites also contain tannins. In a poor quality wine, tannins can feel overly astringent and leave you with an unpleasantly dry mouth. When done right, however, tannins can greatly add to the drinking experience. Many wine lovers actively seek out notably tannic wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo. (See WTF are Tannins for more)