Some Wine Basics

Wine is basically fermented grape juice. While wine grapes have yeast on the skins, winemakers usually add more yeast to the crushed grapes, and the yeast converts the sugar in the juice (brix) into alcohol. Sounds pretty simple, right? Apparently not, because I’ve tasted a lot of bad wine! Winemaking is a science. A lot of factors go into that science: type of soil, climate, elevation, how the grapes are pruned, aging in oak barrels or stainless steel tanks, blending different grapes together, and on and on. I don’t really understand all of that science, so I’ll keep it simple. Let’s define some basic wine terms.

Varietal – a wine made from just one type of grape

Blend – a wine made from several different varietals

Vintage – the year the grapes were grown and made into wine

Nose – the aroma of the wine

Legs – the streaks that wine leaves behind when you swirl it in your glass

Body – the color and texture of the wine. Is it light, medium, or full-bodied?

AVA – American Viticultural Area – a classified growing area determined by the US Government

Appellation – a zone that specifies certain rules and regulations that all the winemakers in that appellation must follow.

Terroir (“Tear-woh”) a fancy French word that describes how a region’s soils, climate, terrain, and winemaking practices affect the taste of the wine

There are many more terms associated with wine, and it can get as complicated as you want it to, but these basics will get you started. You will hear these words in tasting rooms and while touring vineyards. It’s so fun to actually know what the guides are talking about! And I think it makes the wine taste better too. 😜 Enjoy the journey. Cheers! 🍷


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