Like all sophisticated things, wine comes with its own lexicon. Attend any wine-tasting event and you’ll inadvertently run into someone muttering about varietals or bottle shock. And just what in the world are tannins? Jamie Peha, president of Peha Promotions and host of Table Talk Northwest, shared with us some key terms every aspiring wine connoisseur should know.
Acidity – Fresh, tart, crisp and lively aspects which show themselves on the sides of your mouth and tongue, similar to biting into a citrus fruit.
Aroma – The smell of wine, in particular young wine, which can often help identify the varietal.
Austere – Generally not a desirable quality. Austere wine is hard, rather dry and lacking richness.
AVA or Appellation – An American Viticultural Area is a designated wine-grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The AVA is listed on every bottle of wine.
Balance – What every wine strives to be. A well-balanced wine will evenly blend the concentration of fruit, level of tannins and acidity in total harmony.
Body – Described on a scale of light to medium to full-bodied and can be determined by varietal, region, vintage, alcohol level or winemaking method. Body can describe your overall impression of a wine.
Complex – A complex wine is one that the taster never gets bored with and finds interesting to drink. Complex wines exhibit a variety of subtle scents and flavors.
Corked – Denotes a flawed wine that has a musty, wet-paper smell and doesn’t taste quite right.
Dry – The opposite of sweet; refers to a wine with little to no natural sugar remaining after fermentation.
Finish – How to describe the wine once you’ve swallowed. Can be described as bitter, persistent, short, long, sweet, smooth or even nonexis- tent and can differ from the first taste.
Flight – A selection of between three and eight wines. You can taste a variety of wines from one winery or compare and contrast wines of the same varietal or vintage.
Hot – A wine high in alcohol (above 14 percent). You feel the heat as you swallow the wine.
Oaky – Wines that are barrel aged or treated with oak bring forward a taste of vanilla and sweet spices such as nutmeg, a creamy body and a smoky or toasted flavor.
Palate – Used to describe the entire mouth in tasting. Confirms flavors detected on the nose, but adds body, acidity, tannins and finish to the full tasting experience.
Structure – Relationship of the wine’s components, including acid, tannin, alcohol and fruit. While structure doesn’t describe flavor, it will give you an idea of how the wine will age. A well-structured wine typically will age well.
Sweet – First tasted on the tip of your tongue, true sweetness is the result of residual sugar left in the wine from the fermentation process.
Tannins – Preserve wine for long- term aging and provide structure; tannins naturally occur in wines and can leave a bitter, dry and puckered feeling.
Vegetal – Describes flavors and aro- mas reminiscent of vegetation (like bell pepper or grass), rather than fruit or floral notes.
Vintage – The year on the bottle indicates when the grapes were har- vested from the vineyards. Wines characterized as NV (nonvintage) or MV (multivintage) use juice from sev- eral harvest years.
JAMIE PEHA IS THE PRESIDENT OF PEHA PROMOTIONS (PEHAPROMO.COM), A SEATTLE-BASED MARKETING, PUBLIC RELATIONS AND EVENT MANAGEMENT COMPANY SPECIALIZING IN FOOD, BEVERAGES AND LIFESTYLE BRANDS.