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Wine terms every home sommelier needs to know

There are many buzzwords in the wine industry, and it can be difficult to keep up with them all. Here, we break down the most common wine terms for you to help elevate your next tasting experience.

With our guide, which follows on from a previous blog, you can swirl, sip and savour the flavour and aromas, and talk about wine like an expert!

Acidity

Acidity gives wine its tart or sour taste and is one of four fundamental traits, together with tannin, alcohol and sweetness. Adding brightness and liveliness to wine, acid can enhance flavours by making each one more pronounced.

There are several different types of acids found in wine, which can affect how acidic it tastes. The most common acids are citric, malic and tartaric acid, with malic and tartaric found naturally in grapes.

Different grapes have varying levels of acidity. At the higher end of the scale are white grapes such as Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, while Chardonnay sits somewhere in the middle with acidity levels determined by where grapes are grown – that is, in cooler or warmer climates. The more acidic a wine, the sharper and crisper on the palate it will be. Whereas a wine with less acid should feel smoother and rounder.

Tip: An easy way to see how much acid a wine has is to hold your mouth open after you take a sip. The more saliva produced in your mouth, the more acidic the wine.

Tannin

You may have heard the term tannin used a great deal by wine aficionados, but what does it mean exactly? An important descriptor for wine tastings, tannin refers to the dryness, bitterness and astringency of a wine.

Tannins are a naturally occurring compound in grapes, particularly present in the skin, seeds (pips) and stems used to produce wine. Polyphenols (the scientific word for these compounds) release from the grapes when they soak in the juice after being pressed and are what gives certain wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon their characteristic dryness or astringency. As sugar is processed and the alcohol is produced, colour and tannin are released into the wine. The longer the skins and seeds macerate during and after fermentation, the more tannins remain in the wine.

Red wine varietals in particular (Sangiovese, Malbec, Shiraz, Tempranillo) have the highest tannin levels.

Tip: Allowing a wine to aerate (breathe) before drinking it will soften the tannins.

Mouthfeel

As the term suggests, mouthfeel describes the sensation of the wine in the mouth (including the tongue and roof of the mouth) or more specifically, the wine’s texture. How does it feel after a sip? The term is believed to have originated in wine tastings and has since gained popularity.

A simple way to understand mouthfeel is to think about the senses used when drinking a glass of wine. While your nose helps to assess the wine’s aromas and your taste buds define the sweet or sour notes, mouthfeel on the other hand is tactile and influenced by various wine components (acidity, tannins, glycerol, alcohol, protein), encompassing the overall texture and weight of the wine across your palate.

As an example, fresh and fruity wines will have a lighter mouthfeel compared with dessert wines, which are full and heavy.

Naturally sweet, bubbly and delicious, Edenvale’s pink Moscato has delicate flavours of rose petal and Turkish delight, which are lifted on the palate by a light fizz.

Tip: Some popular mouthfeel word descriptors include viscosity, coating, smoothness, dryness, density, acidity and silky.

Palate weight

The body of a wine is how much weight the wine holds on the palate. Is it light-bodied, medium-bodied or full-bodied? ‘Body’ and ‘weight’ are often used interchangeably in wine speak, referring to how heavy or viscous a wine feels in your mouth.

A Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz will typically have more palate weight than Pinot Noir. Full-bodied wines generally have roundness, intensity and structure, while wines that are light-bodied are thinner, delicate and fresher.

Edenvale’s Australian Cabernet Sauvignon is smooth and well-rounded on the palate, with intense flavours and a strong blueberry aroma.

Tip: When referencing palate weight, a good comparison is to think of light-bodied wine like skim milk, medium-bodied like the regular type and full-bodied like full cream varieties.

Alcohol sweetness

Sweetness contributes to the wine’s overall flavour profile and body. While grapes used in winemaking have naturally occurring fruit sugars, it’s the transformation of these sugars into alcohol via the fermentation process that results in wine.

The sweetness of a wine is determined by how many grams of sugar remains in the wine after fermentation and is measured on a scale of dry (no sugar) to sweet (sugar included).

Sweetness impacts the acidity in wine; the sweeter the wine, the less acidic it will taste.

Tip: To taste sweetness, look for a tingling sensation on the tip of your tongue.

With Edenvale, you can enjoy a sophisticated beverage such as a Sauvignon BlancPinot GrisPinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon, without the effects of alcohol. Explore our full range here.

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