How to

A Guide to Wine Lingo: 10 Terms to Learn

For a beverage made from grapes, wine sure has an excessive number of terms to describe it

While wine jargon is often associated with the pompous and snobby, there are some less pretentious ways to show know your subtle oaky notes from your earthy ones. Our guide might even teach the vino snob in your life a thing or two the next time wine time rolls around. 

Acidity: The hit of zesty tartness at the end of the wine. High acid wines enhance the flavour of food and have a distinct ‘crisp’ element to them. This can often be shown through the wine’s PH reading. 

Dumb: This one is a bit contentious. Dumb wines are undeveloped young wines lacking in richness and aroma. While ‘closed’ wines are almost guaranteed to reach their full flavour potential through maturing, dumb wines may stay dumb forevermore. 

Fat: Fat wine fetishes are a thing. These wines are plump with a high concentrate of fruit and a lower acidity, giving a round, opulent feeling in the mouth. 

Flabby: Flabby wines, on the other hand, are something you want to avoid. They lack acidity, feel flat and don’t have much in the way of structure.

Legs: Some wines are leggier than others. You can figure it out by seeing if lines of liquid (legs) stay on the inside of the glass after taking a sip. If a wine has legs, it tends to be higher in alcohol.  

Matchstick: White whites can sometimes be accompanied by the not-so-pleasant smell of freshly burnt matches. This is caused by an excess of preservative sulphur dioxide and can often be fixed through decanting or letting the bottle breathe in some O2. 

Minerality: This term is subject to heated debate in the wine world. It refers to a wine’s “gout de terroir” or taste of the soil, suggesting that a grape vine can absorb minerals and affect the flavour of a wine. So if you’re Pinot tastes like dirt (literally), you now know why. 

Tannic: Mostly found in red wines, tannins (tannic acid from the grape skin or wood of the wine barrel) are the culprits behind the drying, lip-puckering sensation you feel in and around your mouth. 

Toasty: A term used to describe the taste of a wine that’s been aged in oak barrels. Before you perk up, rather than an actual toasted bread taste (apologise for any disappointment), it gives a slightly burnt caramel element to the wine. 

Damn tasty: You won’t find this one in any technical vino language book. But most of the time, wine is best experienced without putting it through an analytical procedure. So drink up and enjoy. 

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