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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wine 101 - Learning the Terminology

Words by Jennifer Stein
Words by Autumn Millhouse

Want to learn more about wine? Have you ever tasted a wine and liked it but didn’t know what else to say to describe the character beyond saying ‘it tastes yummy’? Or not sure what questions to ask to help you understand more about the wine?

Below are some simple wine terms twisted in an amusingly romantic manner and intended to increase your wine knowledge and make you sound like a pro the next time you discuss and taste vino.

Start with these basic wine terms and you will be a pro in no time! Cheers…

Acidity - When in perfect balance, acidity is what gives wine its fresh, crisp character; but like all sensuous equilibriums, this is a delicate one to achieve. Acid levels that are too high will render wine sharp and bitter while too small an amount can leave a wine seeming “flat.”

Appellation - Sometimes, it is about where you are; this is the term used to describe the region where a particular grape was grown and ripened to perfection. Napa Valley itself has almost 15 sub-appellations.

Aroma - As in love, so in wine: when we talk about new love, we speak differently than we do about mature, time-tested love. In the same way, the terms used to describe a wine’s scent depend upon its ripeness. “Aroma” refers to younger wines, while the more sophisticated “bouquet” is reserved for mature wines.

Body - Beauty comes in every shape and size imaginable. Since we are highly sensi­tive and sensuous beings, the tiniest difference in weight imparted by a wine to our mouths will be noticeable, and called light, medium, or full-bodied.

Decanting - This is the important process in which a decanter is used to separate undesired sediment from the wine, ensuring its prized “brightness.”

Finish - Our senses linger in pleasurable states long after the event itself has passed; thus after wine is swallowed, its “finish” on your tongue will tell you a great deal about its quality.

Fruit - These ones are not forbidden, thankfully. In fact, they are the main component of wine, and not restricted to grapes; a myriad of other fruits are employed to help describe the wine’s character, such as pear, plum, cherry, blackberry, and many more.

Legs - There’s nothing like a great pair. After wine has been swirled in its glass, tell-tale tracks of liquid cling to the sides, betraying levels of alcohol and glycerol. Even though they’re also called “tears,” there’s no need to mourn – unless of course your glass is empty.

New World Wine - A whole new world of wine has come into being, hailing from places off the beaten path in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and United States. It pays to be adventurous…

Nose - Whoever said wine doesn’t have personality? Indeed, its aromatic “nose” will either beckon you to a taste, or repel you forever with its sharp odor.

Old World Wine - There is always great richness to be enjoyed from the fruits of tradition: the products of historical wine growing regions in Europe and North Africa have a reputation for a reason.

Varietal – This tells you the main grape used to make the particular blend of wine. It has to be a certain percentage, such as 75% Cabernet Sauvignon for it to be called a Cabernet. Just like most men, winemakers like variety too and often blend two to three varietals to make one delicious tasting wine.

For more on Autumn Millhouse and her book Romantic Napa Valley, An Insider’s Guide for Couples, click here.

Autumn Millhouse is an award-winning travel writer who specializes in wine, food and romantic getaways. She is also an international trekker who has wined and dined across the globe from Barcelona to Beijing . A self-proclaimed “hopeless-romantic” and author of Romantic Napa Valley: An Insider’s Guide for Couples, Autumn also has a bi-monthly column called "Love Vines" published in Napa Valley Life Magazine. She resides in Napa Valley where she cultivates her wine and food relationships with top chefs, winemakers and a slew of other foodies. Besides, sniffing, swirling and sipping wine daily, Autumn is currently working on her next travel book Romantic Sonoma Valley: An Insider’s Guide for Couples.

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