From the technology of fermentation to the aromas and flavors developed in fine wine, the subject of wine appreciation can be difficult to navigate and master for the beginner. But, by learning a few basic terms on the subject, you will find wine more pleasurable and have others believing you’re a pro-taster.
Wine can be quite intimidating to a newcomer. Considering all the different kinds of wine from regions all over the world, it’s understandable that becoming a wine expert is a challenge. Evolving wine styles, innovative blends and the surprise of each new vintage makes it difficult for even enthusiasts to keep track. However, this ever-evolving industry does provide some stability in the form of wine-tasting terminology. The simple words needed to navigate a wine conversation with an acquaintance or connoisseur are incredibly easy to learn. Here are a few basic terms to carry you through your new wine ventures.
When people talk about the “body” of a wine, they are discussing the wine’s weight. This term refers to the wine’s fullness, or how heavy the wine feels on the palate. An easy way to understand the body of wine is by thinking of the comparison between water, skim milk and whole milk and how differently they feel on the pallet. For example, a full-bodied wine such as Gervasi’s Zin Zin Zinfandel (red wine) will have a rich and powerful impact on the pallet while Lucello Pinot Grigio (white wine) leaves a lighter impression.
If a wine is dubbed “lively,” it’s likely a wine with higher acidity. Gervasi’s Passione Aromella is a great example of this with the inherent higher acidity of the Aromella grape. Its acidity is impeccably balanced with the perfect level of sweetness. Sparkling wines such as Prosecco and Lambrusco may also be described as lively due to the invigorating bubbles from the wine’s carbonation. Lively wines will feel fresh, bright and cleansing on the pallet. If a wine does not covey liveliness in some degree, it may be considered “flabby”, the antithesis wine term to lively.
The term “dry” is a technical statement describing the level of residual sugar in the finished wine. In winemaking, the fermenting grapes or juice contain sugar which is converted to alcohol during the fermentation process. The amount of sugar remaining in the wine after fermentation is complete will determine the placement of the wine on the measuring scale, ranking wines from dry to sweet. Sometimes wines are back sweetened to adjust the level of dryness. Typically, if a wine has less than 1% residual sugar it will be considered dry. Tannins, an attribute in wine that conveys astringency, (and makes your gums feel “puckery”) should not be mistaken for dryness. They are an entirely different sensation. Gervasi’s Truscano Sangiovese is an example of a red wine that is fermented to dryness while the estate grown Lascito Frontenac Gris is specifically designed to have residual sweetness.
The term earthy is typically applied to red wines and denotes wines whose character portrays the aromas of earth more than of fruits. Descriptors of turned earth, wet gravel, graphite, forest floor, mushroom and underbrush are often used to describe the earthy character of a wine. The beloved “dirt- like” taste of beets is often experienced in earthy wines such Gervasi’s Velluto Pinot Noir. Other wines that can have an earthy character are Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. European produced red wines tend toward earthy while New World wines lean toward more fruit. Red wines with longer term aging in wooden barrels allow for the formation of more earthy character with subdued fruity notes.
The ability of a wine to be complex instead of single dimensioned is a testament to the key aspects of the winemaking process. This starts with the quality of the grapes and continues through the winemaking technics used. One-dimensional wines convey a single flavor or aroma, even if pleasant one. But a complex wine expresses a multitude of aromas and tastes. Think of the wine complexity in terms of a tomato-based pasta sauce. It begins with the dominate characteristic of tomatoes and then builds complexity with herbs, spices and meats. The result is multi-faceted, layered sauce delivering many flavors in a single entrée. Just remember that a complex wine will offer various flavors throughout the drinking experience. One lovely example is Gervasi’s Fioretto Sauvignon Blanc which delivers flavors of grapefruit, lime, lemon grass and light tropical characteristics.
Learning these basic wine terms will ultimately heighten your wine tasting experience. This knowledge will assist you when choosing wine for any occasion. Gervasi Vineyard is the home of remarkable and unique wine that always gives life a celebratory edge. Begin your wine tasting adventure in Canton, Ohio at Gervasi Vineyard winery and resort.