What's the point of wine jargon? - WineUncorked: Wine Reviews and Tips

By understanding wine jargon (see A-Z of Wine Jargon - wine terms explained) you are more likely to buy a wine you like and less likely to waste money buying a wine that you don’t like.

Understanding the words used on wine labels and in wine reviews is a great advantage to wine buyers looking to avoid that feeling of being overwhelmed in the wine aisle and the cycle of random purchases.

Buying wine can be a little bit of a lottery. Choosing styles that have a pretty label or have an international brand name you’ve heard of is one way to buy wine. You may even make some random choice based on what is displayed cunningly at eyeball-browsing height on the supermarket shelves. This will result in some nice wines and but far too many will just taste blah.

So how can you ensure you will enjoy what you buy and not feel it was a waste of money?

Buying wine should be easy because what it tastes like is helpfully written on the back label. So flavours of cherries and chocolate is pretty easy to understand but velvety tannins?

This jargon is to let you know that the wine tastes smooth and will slip across the tongue despite the fact that it contains tannins – this is the stuff that stops the wine tasting thin and weedy (like the flavour of too weak fruit cordial) and can cause your mouth to feel dry if there is too much of it.

So why add the word tannin to the description if some wine label readers don’t understand it? Because in one word the vineyard trying to sell you the bottle has conveyed a whole raft of tasting experiences without having to fill the restricted space giving a dictionary explanation. This one word also reveals layers of meaning, when you understand it, so you too can start to get a feel for what’s in the dark and mysterious bottle. Because the irritating thing about wine in bottles, and all other food and drink products, is that you can’t open the packaging and try it before you buy.

Okay so what about another label description, this time on a red wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in South Africa: this wine has distinctive power and purity.

Let’s break it down a bit. Power – well okay wines that have lots and lots of flavour can be powerful but distinctive? We are getting beyond the usual wine label jargon here and so we have to make our best expert guess (if you want the jargon of jargon then this is known as heuristics) and interpret distinctive as being a one-off with the addition of purity meaning that there is no ‘off’ flavours and it tastes like it should.

There is an awful lot of wine jargon out there (we at WineUncorked HQ have collected over 800 terms and defined them for you in our handy searchable guides) and some of it is highly useful and is so specific that it has a unique word (see terroir) while some of it literally describes what you see (see legs and tears) while some jargon is just used unthinkingly and can seem to be deliberately excluding those not part of the exclusive club.

Enjoying wine is a hobby open to everyone. By understanding some of the jargon used by wine buffs and bottlers you won’t be defeated by wine labels ever again.

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