Underground Cellar Explains Basic Wine Terms You Should Know

What separates wine lovers from casual drinkers? Knowledge. Wine is so much more than just alcohol. It’s a complex beverage with hundreds of years of history, tradition, and culture behind it. Plus, there’s all the jargon! And most people don’t even know where to begin when they’re overwhelmed by all that information.

At Underground Cellar, that’s why we’re here. To make it easy for you to understand what they’re talking about when we use all these wine terms.

So, sit back and learn some basics. We’ll start with a few that you’ve probably never heard of before:

Abboccato: An Italian word that means “lightly sweet.” This is not referring to the sugar level in the wine but rather to its taste. An abboccato wine will have a sweet flavor profile, not necessarily be sweeter than other wines.

Aromas: There are three main olfactory categories you need to know about before tasting a wine – fruity, earthy, and floral. When people talk about wine tasting “fruity” or “floral,” they refer to certain aromas that make up the spectrum of flavors in a wine.

Closed: Not all wines are meant to be drunk when they’re young. Some need some time (literally years) for their flavors to develop and become more interesting. If you’ve ever had a glass of wine and found it to taste young, that means it wasn’t ready yet. Wine can be closed when people talk about how tight or closed the wine tastes.

Earthy: The opposite of fruity, earthy aromas come from dead yeast cells and grape skins. There are different levels of “earthiness,” though most wines will have some, to various degrees.

Oak: Oak is one of the most commonly mentioned elements in wine tasting. Most wines are aged or fermented in oak barrels, so they pick up some of the flavor characteristics of the wood. If you’re talking about a wine smelling “oaky,” that means it has an intense aroma of vanilla or spice.

Petrol: You may or may not ever have a wine that’s described as petrol, but it’s worth knowing what this means. Petrol is a reference to the smell of gasoline in wines. It can be pleasant when found in small amounts, but too much will make the wine taste bitter and unpleasant.

Tannin: Tannin is a chemical found in grape skin and other parts of the grape plant. It’s often described as dry, bitter, or acrid. This can vary from wine to wine, but that’s why tannin levels are always given as a percentage – because everyone tastes it differently.

Varietal: The term varietal refers to how much of the wine is made up of one grape variety. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon is a varietal wine because it’s 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Many wines are blends of different grapes and will have names like “Cabernet-Merlot” to indicate what makes up its other ingredients.

Wine Region: What’s the difference between a wine region vs. a wine country? Great question. For example, wine countries are large areas, like France, while wine regions are specific sections of each country that have their own wines and traditions. For instance, Bordeaux is in France, but it’s also its own distinct region.

What do you think? Now that you know the terminology, are you more interested in trying out different wines? Let us know what else you’d like to learn!