I’ve seen it time and time again, people afraid to speak out about a wine due to not wanting to sound uneducated on the subject. For some reason wine has been deemed as a snobby topic. Well I hate to break it to you, but it’s alcohol! And I’m pretty sure that label comes along with words like fun, tipsy and letting loose.

To be honest, I don’t think the perception of wine is going to change anytime soon. It’s getting better but there’s still going to be those people who’d prefer to describe wines in technical terms to prove their knowledge on the subject. Even if no one else in the room speaks their wine talk.

So today I wanted to highlight 5 wine words that you can slip into conversation to make you sound like a pro! Plus hopefully I’ll describe them well enough that you understand them and don’t feel like a fraud using them. You may even raise a few eyebrows with your newfound wine knowledge.

1. Champagne

Champagne is one of the most commonly misused wine terms out there and I swear if you start using it correctly you’ll get some mad kudos from wine pros. Champagne is a region in France where they make sparkling wine. Naturally the French named their sparkling wine made in the region champagne and by ‘wine law’ it’s the only sparkling wine in the world that can be called champagne. It must also adhere to champagne specifications such as being made by traditional methods with grapes grown and vilified within the region. Passion Pop is not champagne and never will be. If you’re ever unsure of what to call a bubbly wine, then stick to the term ‘sparkling wine’.

2. Acidity

When describing wines, I have found many of my friends describe them as ‘sharp’ and screw up their faces like they’ve sipped on lemon juice. This will no doubt be the acidity in the vino that’s causing this reaction. So why not try to say that the wine is ‘crisp’ or ‘refreshing’ due to the high acidity in the wine. Typically you’ll find Sauvignon Blanc is a high acid wine.

3. Palate

Its a word we all know (try to avoid misusing it in the wine sense as pallet or palette) and it’s what wine connoisseurs and wine lovers say when talking about what a wine is like in the mouth. When describing what the wine is like on your ‘palate’, talk about the flavours but also how it feels in your mouth from the texture to weight to whether it’s balanced. For instance wines like Semillon can have an almost oily mouthfeel on the palate and oaked wines can be described as creamy on the palate.

4. Tannins

The word tannins is thrown around the wine word a lot and basically it describes that drying sensation you get in your mouth after certain kinds of red wines. It’s a textural element of a wine. It’s caused by the grape seeds, stems and skin contact during the winemaking process and it can also be caused by oak ageing. Tannins are also found in things like black tea. To learn more about tannins and acidity levels I’d highly recommend this wine edx course. Wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon are commonly associated with high tannin levels.

5. Terroir

Terroir is a French term and you may feel like a plonker when you pronounce it (ter-waahr) but it’s actually a really cool term and being able to describe what it means to eager winos will totally show off your mad skills. Terroir denotes the environmental factors that can affect the grapes in the vineyard while growing. Factors such as climate, soil type, topography and other plants in the area all make up the terroir. They all can affect the grapes and what wine they’ll grow up to be. This is why each and every single wine is unique.

There are many technical, weird and whacky wine words out there. But at the end of the day, that’s the beauty of the wine world – no one can know everything. There’s always something to learn with new wines being released daily and new techniques being developed. And I hate to say it (not) but the best way to learn is to taste a wide variety of wines and start getting your wine talk on!


– Casey Ewers
Travelling Corkscrew

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