Whether you're picking out a winner from the in-law's wine cellar before dinner, or attending a tasting with some superiors from work and are looking to impress, life's too short to be behind the eight ball when it comes to wine.
Anyone can enjoy a drop of vino, but few have the vocab to back it up when the situation calls for it. We're not advocating for a pretentious vocal tasting summary every time you're out for a session with your mates, but rather ensuring you nail the basics of the subject every well-educated man should be familiar with.
Wine from first glance...
Appellation - This refers to the area which the grapes were grown. Quite often a wine from the Hunter Valley may source some grapes from elsewhere in the country to pair in the fermentation process.
Blend - A wine made from more than one grape variety, often to marry the attributes of grapes that are commonly known to complement each other, such as a Cabernet Merlot.
Importer - The company or distributor responsible for bringing an overseas wine into the country. Importers tend to stick to a similar style of wines, so if you like one of them you may like multiple in their portfolio.
Varietal - Despite giving the impression it implies multiple grape varieties, varietal actually means that a wine is made up of at least 75% of a single grape. I.e to be called a Shiraz, the percentage ratio should be no less than three-quarters of the Shiraz variety compared to others.
Vintage - The year of harvest, but not necessarily the year of production and bottling.
When giving your thoughts on the drop...
Acidity - Higher acid levels trigger a sharper and crisper taste. All grapes contain acid, though this is usually offset to some degree by adding alcohol and sugar.
Aroma - A wine's aroma can be determined by nosing the glass before drinking. By doing this you're smelling the aroma of the grapes before fermentation. Often called the "nose" of a wine.
Balance - Recognising a wine's balance is one of the most difficult things to do when tasting. This is because you must account for alcohol, acidity, fruitfulness, tannins, sweetness as a collective experience - how do they harmonise as one final product?
Body - Not synonymous with quality but rather the physical presence a wine leaves in your mouth. Is it bold and heavy with many flavours on the palate? In this case it could be described as "full-bodied."
Complexity - A valued characteristic of a wine. If a wine boasts complexity, the depth of flavours, nuances on the palate and layers of tastes are intriguing and compelling.
Finish - One of the most important ways to determine a wine's quality, the finish is how the taste of the wine lingers in the mouth.
Mature - A wine that has reached its aging peak. How long a wine is to be aged for is dependent on a variety of factors. Alternatively, young wines are made to be drunk right away. They're usually crisp and low in tannins.
Texture - How to describe the way a wine feels in your mouth, often compared alongside a wine's body. I.e smooth, chewy, silky.
Other handy terms to verse yourself in...
Aeration - Purposefully allowing a wine to breathe. This can be done by transferring the wine to a decanter, or by simply letting it sit in the glass for a moment before drinking. Swirling the glass isn't just a pretentious show, either, as it aerates all the elements of the wine and enhances the nose.
Corked - A wine that's corked has usually had a build up of mold on the cork, or it has begun to disintegrate, tainting the wine and often making it very difficult or unpleasant to drink.
Oxidised - A wine that has been opened and exposed to air for too long. Most wines have a maximum of 48 - 72 hours after opening before they go off.
Sediment - Found in wine that has been aging for a considerable number of years. Floating tannins or colour pigments that settle on the bottom of a bottle usually occurs in darker red wines. This is not a bad thing, although may need to be decanted if there's a sizeable amount.
Tannins - Phenolic compounds found in plants - in wine's case the stems, skins and seeds of grapes. Wines that are high in tannins are considered "dry."