10 Wine Terms to Make You Sound Like a Pro

Wine Not?

There’s so much to know about wine.  Let’s learn together.  Cheers!

how to fake wine knowledge

Show of hands . . .

how many people swirl a glass of wine (in public) before they drink it and have no idea why the hell they do it?

Keep your hand raised

if you then proceed to smell said wine and still have no clue why.

Lastly, keep your hand raised

if you, purely for dramatic effect, swish the first sip of wine in your mouth and act like you are deeply pondering something profound about the wine.  Yet, you still have absolutely no idea why or what you are doing.

Well, my friend you are not alone.

You couldn’t see it, but my hand pretty much stayed raised the entire time.

Why?  Becuase I can totally relate.  I used to do the same things too.  I was faking it until I made it.  But the problem was I never make it.  Annnnnd I’m pretty sure, no one was picking up what I was putting down.

white wine basics

Wine has always been an enigma to me.  Most of us have a basic understanding of alcohol through good and bad experiences (oooh, Tequila).  But wine is different.  Wine is very adult and there’s so much to know about it.  So much, that I’ve been nervous to ask questions for fear that I would be judged on my lack of knowledge.

And speaking of judgement . . .

I can remember one of my first interactions with a “wine snob”.  It was my first “adult job” and I was in my twenties.  I worked at a large global investment company and I thought knew I had arrived.  My older and more experienced counterparts were well educated (if not Ivy League) and I was not.  I didn’t even have a college degree at the time.  I was just quick on the uptake.  They enjoyed fine dining at the best restaurants were everything on the menu was à la carte.  And well, I was living my best life (at the time) grabbing a bite at Chili’s.  They enjoyed fine wine with their dinner and I guzzled no call well vodka and cranberry juices.  And when they enjoyed their dinner, they enjoyed wine by the (multiple) bottles.  At $300 a pop, I just knew if a bottle of wine cost that much, we had to be drinking “the good stuff”.

Not necessarily but stay tuned . . .

red wine basics

 

I’m not sharing this story to bash the person who I’m referring to as the “wine snob” (ok, maybe I am just a little bit . . .  but it’s a more of a gentle chastising).  Really it just sucks because an opportunity to teach and learn was lost.  Meaning, I could’ve really learned a lot of valuable information about wine from the “wine snob” but after all of the “bring me your finest”, the swishing and swirling, the cork sniffing and what not, I was too embarrassed to ask the most basic of questions for fear of being ridiculed or given “the look”.

*And no one wants any parts of “the look”, especially at a work function.

But I must say this in the “wine snobs” defense, he may or may not have known much about wine.  It just could be possible that he just knew what he liked and was showing off in front of his work colleagues.  Annnnd maybe, just like so many of us with wine, he might’ve been faking it until he made it.

So Let’s Talk Wine . . . 

Smart Things to Say About Wine

Step 1 in How To Fake Wine Knowledge 10 Wine Terms to Make You Sound Like a Pro requires a subject matter expert.  I’ve enlisted the help of my brilliant and awesome friend Desiree “Des” Walz.  Des has a pretty kick ass job.  She is the Midwest Regional Sales Manager for Miner Family Wines and has over 15 years experience in the food and beverage industry.  She knows her stuff!  Basically, Des is the wine Yoda and I’m the Padawan.

are dry wines sweet

Here’s what I can promise:  I promise to give you some smart things to say about wine in public and an explanation of why things are done (ex. when should you decant a bottle).

Will you gain ALL of the wine knowledge you need from this post?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!  Seriously, that would be next to impossible #keepingitreal

My goal is to make you dangerous.  Or at least be able to decipher basic wine tasting terms and actively participate in a conversation about wine.

So with that in mind, let get on with things wine snobs say 10 Wine Terms to Make You Sound Like a Pro

popular white wine varietals

What Does a Wine’s Vintage Mean?

Vintage

This one’s easy.  A wine’s vintage refers to the year the wine was made.  For example 2017, 1999, and etc.

Something to know:  many people assume that the older the vintage the more expensive the bottle.  This is not always true.  Some bottles of wine are specifically made to age and some are made to enjoy now.  Don’t let the year fool you.

Non vintage

A blend of multiple vintages (years) in one bottle.  This is often seen in champagne.

things wine snobs say

Body:  Milk and Wine Analogy

Body

When people speak of the “body” of a wine they are talking about it’s thickness.  Specifically, how it feels in your month and your tongue.  Descriptions of a wine’s body like “full”, “medium” and “light” are often used.  To put it into perspective, think of the difference between the way whole milk, 2% and skim feels in your mouth.  The consistency between wine and milk is vastly different but at least it gives you an idea when speaking body.

Are Dry Wines Sweet?

Seriously, what does it mean for a wine to be “dry”?  Because logic tells us that when something is liquid and wet, it obviously cannot be “dry”.  And this is true, except when it comes to wine.

Dry

So how is a wine “dry”?

Simply put: a dry wine has no residual sugars (RS) and is not sweet.

Here’s the science behind it:   In order to make wine, grapes must ferment.  During fermentation, yeast eats up sugar from the grapes.  And depending upon when and where the wine maker stops the fermenting process, sugar may or may not be left behind.  When sugar is left behind, it’s called residual sugar (RS).  Residual sugar is what makes wine sweet and not dry.  When little to no residual sugar is left behind, a wine is considered “dry”.

Just remember:  Dry = Not sweet

is chardonnay dry or sweet

What Type of Wine Are You Drinking?

Varietal

Did you know that Chardonnay is produced from chardonnay grapes?  And that Riesling is made from riesling grapes?  And etc, etc.

To be honest, I didn’t.

*Annnnnnnd as I type, I’m feeling a little silly.

But I honestly never really thought about it. . .

Varietal is a just a fancy word for the type (or variety) of grape in a wine.  Chardonnay grapes = Chardonnay wine.  And so forth . . .

Popular White Wine Varietals

Chardonnay

Sauvignon Blanc

Pinot Grigio

Riesling

Popular Red Wine Varietals

Merlot

Cabernet Sauvignon

Pinot Noir

Bordeaux

Cuvee

Okay, so you know when you are in the club dancing and all of a sudden the DJ yells out “It’s the REEEEEEEMIX”?

Yes, but what do that have to do with wine?

The cuvee is the P Diddy “remix” of wine.  It’s the blending of varietals to make a bottle of wine.

A cuvee can be done a couple of ways:

1.  One varietal (ex. Chardonnay) but the grapes all come from different vineyards.

2.  Blend multiple varietals together (ex.  Sauvignon Blanc + Pinot Grigio).

smart things to say about wine

Is There Really a Purpose to Swirling a Glass of Wine?

It’s not just for show.  There actually is a real purpose to swirling your glass of wine.

Aerate

Simply put:  Letting wine breathe in your glass.

By introducing oxygen to the surface of the wine by swirling it around in your glass, aerating can help to release different aromas in the wine.

Aroma

Simply put:  it’s the smell of the wine.

*Also referred to as the “bouquet” or the “nose.”

When you swirl wine around in your glass, what do you smell?  Do you pick up the scent of fruits?  What about nuts?  Or even citrus?

But what if its a little funky smelling?

Next to taste, following your nose is an important litmus test to deciding whether you like or dislike a certain wine.  However, Des warns us in some cases to open the wine and let it breathe.  Letting the wine breathe may allow for some of those “funky” smells to “blow off” or disappear.

The Takeaway:  Don’t immediately judge a wine by it’s smell.

what are some types of dry wines

To Decant or Not To Decant

In all honesty, I NEVER knew why someone would use a glass decanter.  I just always thought it was a pretty way to serve your wine outside of the bottle.  You know when company comes over and you want to feel a little fancy.

Decant

When you “decant” a wine, you are pouring it into a container larger than the wine bottle.  This allows for the whole bottle to breathe (instead of just a glass).  Hence the name “decanter” for the container.

Also, decanting a wine reduces the wine sediment that might end up in your glass.  And speaking of sediment . . .

Sediment

No, I’m not referring to the sediment we all learned about in Geology class.  Have you ever enjoyed a glass of wine and noticed some gritty looking stuff hanging out at the bottom of your glass?  That gunk at the bottom of your glass is sediment.  Sediment can be a mixture of yeast cells, grape pieces, (stems, seeds, skins and etc), crystals or anything remaining from the fermenting and wine making process.

Not necessarily the stuff you want to drink, right?

guide to white wines

Tips to Remember From Des

1.  Ask Away

Listen, it’s almost impossible for the average person to know everything about wine.  “Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Ask your server or the wine buyer or sommelier for suggestions.”  They are happy to help.

2.  Try Something Different

Not really on board with the sommelier’s suggestions, or you only drink (insert your favorite type of wine here).

No problem.  How about sticking with the same varietal but trying a different vineyard?  If you only drink red blends from the Bordeaux region, Des suggest trying Miner’s flagship, The Oracle “for a change.”

Basically, live a little.  YOLO!

3.  Don’t Be a Price Snob

“Just because it seems inexpensive, doesn’t mean it isn’t good.”  So true.  Price is not a defining characteristic of a “good” wine”.  For a great value, Des suggests trying Miner Family’s 2015 Emily’s Cabernet.

//

I hope these 10 wine terms to help make you sound like a pro in your next conversation about wine.

Do you have any other questions about wine?  Leave a comment below and I’ll get them answered for you.

Cheers!

-xoxo Melissa

white wine pairings

*Thank you a’Bouzy for putting up with our shenanigans and thank you Desiree “Des” Walz of Miner Family Wines for generously sharing your wine knowledge with me, my readers and followers. 

Photos by Swish + Click Photography

basic wine tasting terms

 

 

 

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