Want to speak wine, but don’t know where to start? We have you covered! There are quite a few words that can be used to describe grapes, wine, and the wine-making process, but we’ve narrowed it down here to a few of the essentials to make you sound just like a sommelier. Whether you’re getting ready for a wine pairing party or a Saturday spent touring the vineyards, you’ll be ready to talk about enology, varietals, and more.
Wine Lingo to Sound like a SommelierEnology (also spelled Oenology): The science of wine production. An enologist is a winemaker, and someone who enjoys wine can be referred to as an enophile.
Viticulture/Viniculture: The study and art of grape growing. Vilifications is specific to the study and art of wine grapes.
Varietal: One specific grape variety such as Chardonnay, Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon. A blend is a wine that contains two or more varietals.
- Fun fact: A wine that states a single variety on the label may actually be a blend! US laws allows a wine to be labeled as a varietal wine as long as it contains 75% or more of the stated varietal. So that Merlot you’re drinking may not be a true 100% Merlot.
Brix: The measurement of the sugar level in unfermented grapes. This is one indicator to help growers determine when they can pick the grapes. Most table wines are harvested between 220 and 25 Brix.
Appellation: A legally defined and protected geographic indication used to identify where a grape is grown. In the US they are called AVAs, or American Viticulture Areas. These regions are designated due to specific geographic or climate features that make them uniquely different from their surrounding areas and affect how a grape is grown.
- Fun Fact: We grow our grapes right here in Oregon! The Rogue Valley is a sub AVA in the Southern Oregon AVA which is a sub Appellation in the Oregon AVA.
Tannins: Naturally occurring compounds found in the skin, seeds, and stems of grapes. Tannins are released into the wines when the grapes are pressed, and the skins, seed, and stems are allowed to soak in the grape juice for a specified period of time. The dry sensation when tasting wine comes from tannins. Wine with a lot of tannin can be referred to as chewy or grippy, whereas wines with a low amount of tannin are soft and silky.
Bouquet: A term used to describe how a wine smells––aromas, fragrance, odors.
Bung hole: The opening on a barrel where wine can be put in or removed.
Aeration: Adding oxygen to the wine to soften tannins and improve the flavor of certain wines.
Thief: The instrument used to remove a sample wine from a barrel.
Whether you’re hosting the next wine Wednesday or eating at a restaurant with a nice wine list, you’re now prepared with all the right words to describe the experience. Cheers!