You are out at a restaurant with your date, or maybe your roommate’s parents and the sommelier, aka the designated wine server, pours you the tasting glass of wine. You delicately pick up your wine glass, give it that little swirl, and slurp down some of the liquid inside. You have done everything you’ve seen in the movies. Now if only you knew what to say next…the wine is tasty? good? Try out some of these fancy-shmancy wine words instead. You will surely impress your server and anyone at your table with your sophisticated wine knowledge.

wine words

Photo by Lila Seeley

1. Big

This rather elementary word is used by the most intellectual wine connoisseurs to describe how the wine feels in the mouth. After taking a sip of wine, does the flavor expand over the tongue and cheeks? Is it a powerful wine? If so, look proudly and surely at your guests and proclaim, “this wine is big!” Most big wines have higher alcohol content, so drink big wine in small glasses.

2. Complex

Describing a wine as complex simply means the flavors change while tasting it. To sound even more wine-intelligent, continue to explain how the flavors change. For an example, you can say, “This wine is complex in that it begins with fruity undertones which then become smokey overtones.”

3. Creamy

Creamy is generally used to describe white wines or champagne. When a wine is creamy, it melts like butter on your tongue. Creamy whites are less acidic and usually aged in oak. These creamy wines are easy to drink and tasty with dessert or fruit.

4. Harsh

Surprise! A harsh wine means…hard to drink. The wine may make your mouth feel exceptionally dry, it may taste tart, or have high tannins (see below).

5. Legs

You can discover if the wine has legs if tracks of liquid appear to stay on the glass after swirling your wine around or taking a sip. If a wine has legs, it usually has a higher alcohol content.

6. Oaky

Oaky describes a wine’s taste. A deep woody flavor can allude to oaky. Other flavors, such as butter, vanilla and sometimes coconut in white wines can be described as oaky. In red wine oaky flavors can include spices and vanilla. These flavors are created when the wine is aged in an oak barrel. See the connection?

7. Rich

A rich wine is full of fruity flavor. It is sweet, but not too sweet. Expect wonderful hints of berries and a fruity aroma if you are sipping on a rich wine.

8. Tannic

Tannins are elements in the wine that create a stringent dryness to the wine. Tannins usually come from the grape skin or wood of the wine barrel. If the wine seems to dry out your mouth upon tasting it, you can describe it to your guests as “tannic.” This description is rarely used for white wines.

9. Tight

Tight wines need to loosen up before you bring them to the party. If the wine tastes very tannic, or lacks any fruity flavor and is hard to drink, it needs to be decanted (a fancy wine word for “aired out”). Pour the tight wine into a decanter, a special vase that allows air into the wine, or simply leave the bottle open for a little while to let air in.

wine words

Photo by Steven Baboun

You can also use your new knowledge to pick out wines you may enjoy. Bring a bottle and your knew vocabulary to your next dinner party and impress all the guests.

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