Sound Like an Expert With These 33 Wine Terms

December 23, 2011

Bonacquisti Wine Co. Denver

Wine can be a confusing thing, especially for those of us who like to crack open a bottle and just enjoy with friends. Part of the intimidation comes from the vast vernacular required to hang with certified cork dorks. We could list hundreds of words that relate to wine, but there are more important tasks in life. So we offer 33 basic terms that will make you feel comfortable talking wine with novices and experts alike.

Acidic 
A wine that has strong acids in it which can make your mouth water a bit. Acids are usually really good for food and wine pairings.

Appellation
A known wine region defined by, depending on the country, geography, wine quality, topography and a number of other factors. In the U.S., these are simply legally defined geographic areas. Colorado has two: The West Elks and Grand Valley.

Aromatic
A wine with very noticeable and distinctive aromas. Often, these wines will result in people at the tasting room saying something like, "smells yummy." We couldn't agree more. Try the Riesling for a delicious pop of fragrance.

Blind tasting
The only way to prove to your friends that Colorado wine can hang with the world. The premise is simple, line up several wines by theme (grape, region, etc.), place a brown bag or other masking agent over them, pour and enjoy without knowing which is which (but be sure to number them to keep track). Then you and your friends can talk about the wine without bias.

Breathing
Some would suggest that letting a wine breath is as important as the act of breathing for humans. Introducing air to wine can open up aromas and flavors, balance the wine and make it supremely enjoyable. The beauty of wine is that it literally changes with every sip.

Classico
An Italian term for the historical or "classic" center of a wine region — often located in the heart of a Italian appellations known as DOCs. This has nothing to do with Colorado other than we dig Italian wine here on 46th and Pecos.

Cult wines
Wines that have a rabid following due in large part because of quality, lack of production and marketing. These wines cost a boatload and often require signing onto a wait list just to get one. We’re not there (yet), but we figure the to be gaining that status in our home neighborhood, Sunnyside.

Decanting
We just told you how important breathing is in regards to a wine’s development. Decanting speeds the process by aerating the wine in an area with more room for oxygen. Decanting can also help separate sediment from wine. Decanting a red wine is almost never a bad idea.

Dry
This simple means the wine lacks sugar (sugar from grapes can be removed completely during the fermentation process at the discretion of the winemaker).

Grand Valley AVA
This Colorado appellation is the heart of the state's wine country. It's located in and around Palisade.

Jug wine
This American term is generally reserved for inexpensive table wine. In our case, we have fun with it by offering a growler-like refill program.

Nose
The smell of the wine basically. To truly enjoy the nose, stick your nose deep into the wine glass (and don’t fret if you sniff a little up your nose; it happens to the best of us).

Oenophile
A wine aficionado or connoisseur. Hopefully you classify yourself as one. If not, stop on by the tasting room, and we'll convert you.

Off dry
Wine that has just a touch of sugar still in it after fermentation. It's not quite sweet nor is it bone dry.

Port
A sweet fortified wine, which is generally produced from grapes grown and processed in the Douro region of Portugal. This term is trademarked, so we can only offer a Port-style wine. This wine is fortified with the addition of distilled grape spirits in order to boost the alcohol content and stop fermentation thus preserving some of the natural grape sugars.

Reserve
In the U.S., this term means very little. It’s a term a winemaker can add for whenever he or she deems it. In places such as Spain or Italy, it has a legal definition that dictates time in oak barrels and aging minimums.

Revisit
A handy term to order more wine from a tasting room without sounding like a lush (ie, “I’d like to revisit that Vinny No Neck.” Sounds like you know what you are talking about.)

Sommelier
The snotty person at a restaurant that knows everything about wine. Well, not everything. There are several schools of varying stature that can bestow up to three levels of Sommelier on a person, the highest distinction being Master Sommelier (the Court of Master Sommeliers is the most esteemed authority). Locally, the International Wine Guild and The International Sommelier Guild offer three levels starting with the most basic certification that follows a weekend seminar.

Sparkling wine
Any wine that bubbles. Champagne only comes from its namesake region in France.

Sweet
A wine with significant sugar left in it after  fermentation. This should not be confused with fruit forward. Sweet wines will coat your mouth and have a thicker viscosity than dry wines with big fruits. A wine can be fruity without being sweet.

Tannic
Tannins are a compound that come from oak, and grape skins, seeds and stems. They provide structure in a wine that can help it develop for many years in bottle. If a wine is heavy on tannins, it will feel gritty, almost sandpaper-like, on the palate. In this case, the wine is either being enjoyed too young or it just needs a little air to allow the fruits and acids to  come forward.

Terroir
A fancy word that talks about the major factors in grape quality: mostly climate and geography.

Varietal
Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and all those other wines made from a single-grape.

Vertical
One of the best ways to understand how much a year can change things. Tasting a vertical lineup means sipping on different years of a one wine type from one winery. Bonacquisti Wine Co. wine club members periodically get invited to do this at the winery when we open up the library.

Vin, Vina, Vino, Vinho
The way the French, Spanish, Italians and Portuguese, respectively, say wine.

Vintage
This is the year of the grape. If the wine says 2009, that means the grapes where harvested in 2009. If it doesn’t have year on it, then the wine may be a combination of more than one year of grapes.

West Elks AVA
A Colorado appellation located in and around Paonia.  This is where the state's bomber Pinot Noir and high acid Riesling comes from.

Wine key
The popular, handheld corkscrew that all self respecting wine geeks use (instead of those fancy, breakable types that look like animals).

Wine cave
A subterranean structure, such as your basement or the underground tunnel of your Bordeaux chateau, for storing and aging wine. You know you want one (so do we).

Yeast
A micro-organism that is found in a variety of places, including the skins of grapes. Yeast reacts with sugar to start fermentation, you know, the process that turns grapes into booze!



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