It’s happened to the best of us. You’re listening to an expert’s explanation of something they know so very well. You're taking in a lot of information, but every once in a while they throw in a word you're not familiar with. Since you don't want to interrupt their flow, you smile and nod. Maybe you hide your confusion well, maybe a clear ‘deer in the headlights’ expression washes over your face. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel like there’s a good moment to ask, “What does that mean?” Maybe you’re afraid that everyone else knows and if you raise the question you might be laughed right out of the room. We’ve all been there.
Wine vocabulary can feel a little bit like that sometimes when you’re receiving an expert explanation. Although I'm sure you aren't the only one feeling lost, and I'm sure the fear of being laughed out of the room is an irrational one that will never happen. Piping up to ask these questions is probably a huge relief for others in the room who are also unsure and don't want to ask. So be the hero and ask away. It's unlikely you'll be judged by the friendly wine experts, and they'll probably be happy to answer any questions.
For those of you who still aren't convinced, here's a list of common wine vocabulary to brush up on before your next tour.
Terroir - refers to the environmental factors of the vineyard such as land, elevation and climate
Varietal - the type(s) of grapes used in wine production
Vintage - the year that the wine was produced
Aeration - exposing wine to air before it is consumed. This can soften out the tannins found in red wine giving it a smoother taste
Dry - refers to the lack of sweetness. During the winemaking process sugars are converted to alcohol during fermentation. A dry wine is not sweet.
Body - refers to how heavy or rich the wine tastes
Decant - a way to aerate wine by pouring it from one bottle to another. Also used to remove sediment
Nose - refers to the aroma of the wine
Tannins - bitter compounds found in plants and food. In wine, tannins typically come from the stems, skins and seeds.
Vineyard vs. Winery - the vineyard refers to the fields where the grapes are grown while a winery is where the wine is produced.
Finish - the aftertaste or how long the taste lingers
Solera - a method for aging liquids such as wine. Each year a new vintage is added to the barrel.
Estate - refers to the land owned by the vineyard. Some wineries supplement their produce with grapes purchased elsewhere while others produce wine from grapes strictly off the estate.
Can you think of any words to add to the list? Leave them in the comments below.