Wine: so accessible, yet such an enigma. There are many levels of wine devotion, from casual drinkers to winos to master sommeliers. No matter where you land on the spectrum, there are some basic terms that every wine drinker should know.
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Ranging from light to full, when you talk about the body of the wine you’re commenting on several factors, one of the most prominent being the density and alcohol level. Swirl the wine around in your glass; how many “legs” does it have? The more legs, the more full-bodied and alcoholic it is. Now taste it and ask yourself, “how long does the taste last in my mouth?” The longer it lingers, the more full-bodied it is. Don’t want to come right out with a light, medium, or full prediction? You can get away with saying “This has a nice body.”
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Calling a wine dry is the same as noting the absence of sugar — got that correlation down? If it’s not a sweet wine you can safely get away with proclaiming: “This is a dry wine.”
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This element in wine speaks to the sour parts of the tongue with tart and fresh notes that are notable on some level in every wine from high to low. Taste the wine; can you detect the acidity, almost a tingling feeling? Or is the acidity muted? You can call it out by commenting “This wine has high/low acidity,” or keep it basic with “This is a nice acidity, not too overpowering.”
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Tannins add bitterness and astringency as well as complexity (in definition and taste, mind you). If you get stuck and can’t quite put your finger on it, ask yourself, “is it bitter?” and “is my tongue dried out?” If you answered “yes” to both of those questions, you’re in the clear to publicly declare: “This wine has a lot of tannins.”
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This is the best (and most creative part) of the wine tasting process. Master sommeliers (you know, professionals) note well-known wine flavors such as red and black fruits (more for red wine) and citrus fruits (more for white wine), but also have a few descriptions that may surprise you such as “cut garden hose” and “earth.” Pretty much anything that the taste reminds you of is fair game. Yup, you heard correctly; even “Grandmother’s closet” has been thrown out there. The point? Anything, and we mean anything, goes! Have fun swirling, sniffing, and identifying!