Wine Merchant Directory Blog


Basics of Wine

The wine industry is a little world of its own—with its own language, culture, and intricate practices. Understanding and appreciating the art and skill it takes to create world-class wines enhances our enjoyment of it. If you want to know how to learn basic wine knowledge, the truth is that learning is also the best way for you to enhance your social experiences, gain an improved sense of taste, and increase your confidence when purchasing quality wine. Although understanding wine might seem complicated, learning basic wine knowledge isn’t so hard when you take the right steps - it will also open doors to learn about more complex areas such as biodynamic wine.

Learn the Language of Wine

The wine industry has a wide variety of basic wine terminology that are important to be familiar with if you want to learn the fundamentals. Learning to describe the way a wine tastes or feels in your mouth can help you explain or learn why you like certain wine. One way to do this is by learning to describe the five basic wine characteristics: sweetness, acidity, tannin, alcohol, and body. Understanding basic wine terms, region terms, and winemaking terms is key to gaining knowledge about wine.

There are many basic wine terms that are useful to know, some of which include:

Astringent: A dry mouthfeel typically caused by tannins that bind to salivary proteins causing them to depart the tongue and mouth. It results in a rough "sandpapery" sensation in the mouth.

Terroir: Originally a French word that is used to describe how a particular region's climate, soils, aspect (terrain), and traditional winemaking practices affect the taste of the wine.

Tannin: A textural element that makes wine taste dry. It is a natural occurring polyphenol found in plants, seeds, bark, wood, leaves, and fruit skins. Tannins add both bitterness and astringency, as well as complexity.

Malolactic Fermentation: A process in winemaking in which tart-tasking malic acid, naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid.

Learn Wine Tasting Methods

There is a basic four-step wine tasting method that focuses a taster’s ability to separate and identify critical characteristics in wine and improve flavor and taste memory. This professional tasting technique involves looking at the wine color, smelling the wine’s aromas, tasting and isolating different flavors in the wine, and then evaluating if all the traits in the wine balance one another.

Look: You can learn to identify clues about a wine just by inspecting the color, intensity, opacity, and viscosity. You will see small differences in color and clarity of a wine based on several factors, including variety, production, and age. You can know what is inside a wine simply by looking at the concentration of color. Thicker skin varietals create darker and inkier wines. 

Smell: By smelling the wine, you can notice rich aromas such as fruit or earthiness. Swirling the wine releases aroma compounds, allowing you to smell more subtle scents. When you smell the fruits in the wine it is a good exercise to try and identify if the fruit is underripe, overripe, or perfectly ripe. This will indicate where the wine was grown and the sort of climate it was grown in. 

Taste: Coating your mouth with a larger sip of wine followed by smaller sips will help you isolate and pick out flavors. Try to pick out three fruit flavors on each sip. Another helpful tip is to try to focus on the wine’s tannins and acidity. You experience the tannins when you feel a gripping and drying sensation on your cheeks. You can experience the acidity in wine when you focus on how much you salivate after taking a sip. 

Evaluate: Once you have tasted the wine, the first thing you should ask yourself is whether or not you enjoyed it! Enjoyment is always the most important thing when tasting wine. Not only because wine is primarily about enjoyment but also because it will help you develop a better understanding about what you actually liked and disliked about it. If you discover what you like and don’t like, the whole world of wine will start opening up for you because it is all based on preference. Learning more about wine helps you obtain the tools to better communicate what you are looking for!

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