Decoding the bottle: a beginner’s guide to wine terminology
Know how to talk about wine like a pro with our guide to the most commonly used, and misunderstood, wine words, terms, and descriptors.
If you’ve ever felt daunted trying to choose a bottle of wine at your local bottle shop, you’re not alone. With so many styles, varieties and vintages available from all over the world, buying a bottle of wine often feels like an expensive gamble.
While you don’t have to be fluent in wine-speak, understanding some of the basics can make it a little easier to interpret a tasting note, order wine at a restaurant, or ask the right questions to help you choose a bottle you’ll love.
RACV Cape Schanck Resort wine program manager Aaron Christian says wine is there to invoke memories, which can then influence what you are smelling. For example, if its a memory of summer time then it could be peaches, mango or strawberry in the glass, while climbing trees as a child could be a scent of eucalypt.
"Wine is very personal," he says. "If anyone tries to tell you what you are smelling or tasting is wrong, don't waste your time talking to them."
Everyone's sense of smell and taste is different, but Aaron says knowing the difference between sweetness and fruitiness, or being able to make sense of why wines have a nose, body and legs but no arms, makes it easier to decode what’s in the glass.
To get you started, here is his wine cheat sheet; a glossary of some of the most commonly used wine words to have you speaking somm in no time.