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12 Terms That Will Make You An Amateur Sommelier

Everybody loves wine. But not everyone knows how to describe why. Here are some terms to kickstart your transformation from wine enthusiast to sommelier; try them out with Bordeaux Wines.


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Did you know that the human tongue is limited in what tastes it can identify? That's where the nose comes in — the aromas, or scents of wine, contribute to the taste (which is why we often smell before drinking it).

EXAMPLE: "This wine has a slightly spicy aroma. Also, let's get Indian for dinner."


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Minerality is the wine version of a "buzzword." It's used often to describe a certain mineral quality of a wine — though nobody really agrees on what that is. Regardless: Use it liberally.

EXAMPLE: “This wine has totally amazing minerality.”


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Aeration is the process of allowing a wine to breathe, which is believed to improve the taste. This is usually done with younger wines. There are many ways to aerate wine; the most simple is by pouring it into a glass.

EXAMPLE: "I refuse to drink this wine until it's been aerated.


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When a wine is corked, it has become contaminated with cork taint (not with little bits of cork floating in it, although we all hate that). This makes the wine taste "corky," which is bad, and you should use this term with an unimpressed scowl.

EXAMPLE: "Did you just serve me corked wine? Gross."


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Balance is one of the most sought-after characteristics in a wine. A wine is balanced when all of its individual elements — alcohol, acidity, fruitiness, sweetness, and tannins — are in harmony with one another.

EXAMPLE: "This wine is perfectly balanced. I'll take four bottles, please."


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From the French term appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC), the appellation of a wine refers to the geographical origin of the grapes from where it came. Appellations are legally defined, and there are many restrictions that apply before an appellation may appear on a wine bottle label.

EXAMPLE: "I won't take that glass from you until you tell me the appellation."


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A very French concept, terroir denotes the precise place where a grapevine grows and how different factors — such as the location of the source, the slope, sun exposure, and climate area of the vine — affect the taste of the wine.

EXAMPLE: "You can totally taste the terroir in this red. Right? Right?!"


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Another identifiable aroma of wine. When wine is stored in oak casks, the hardwood imparts aromas and flavors to the wine such as vanilla, spice, smoke, clove, etc.

EXAMPLE: "This wine is... oaky."


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The texture of a wine refers to its tactile sensation on the palate — much the same as texture of food. Some handy terms you could use when discussing texture are: tight, round, mean, creamy and silky.

EXAMPLE: "This wine is a little mean. Like your sister."


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A highly subjective term, a complex wine is one that holds the drinker's interest with a variety of aromas and flavors which intermingle. Don't use this one unless you can elaborate on why the wine is complex (unless your company won't know better).

EXAMPLE: "Wow, this wine is so complex. I'll tell you why later."


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Mouthfeel is the physical impact of a wine on the mouth, its texture — literally the way it makes your mouth feel. You can say: big, sweet, chewy, tannic, etc.

EXAMPLE: "I like this wine. Subtly tannic mouthfeel."


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A wine's finish describes the lingering flavor or textural sensation in your mouth after you taste a wine. It's basically the same thing as "aftertaste," but much classier. Some words you could use to describe the finish of a wine: spicy, savory, sweet, bitter, hot, rich, etc.

EXAMPLE: "The wine's fine, I guess, but the finish is a little harsh."