Chardonnay? Chablis? Is that wine a Pinot Noir or a Pinot Grigio? We’ve heard all of these words before, but what do all of these things mean? There are so many different varieties of wine and almost as many regions where it’s produced. We know  that wine can be confusing and wee are here to help.

There are thousands of different ways that wines are described, which is what makes them each so special. Learning key wine lingo is not only helpful to your palate when choosing wines in the future, but it just might help you look in-the-know at your next dinner party, too!


When describing taste, use words like…

  1. Body:  Describing the “body” of the wine means you are talking about the feeling of weight in your mouth, a.k.a how thin or thick the wine feels.   
  2. Balance:  Balance is pretty much exactly what you think it is. Explaining that a wine is “balanced” means that overall the flavor is harmonious and not too sharp towards a certain taste like sour or bitter.    
  3. Finish: The “finish” of a wine describes the aftertaste, or the flavor that the wine leaves in your mouth. High quality wines tend to have a longer finish that is more complex than wines of low quality.   
  4. Dry:  Calling a wine “dry” means that you are saying it is not sweet. Dry wines have very low levels of sugar, and will occasionally leave a sticky, dry feeling on the tongue.

When describing appearance, use words like…

  1. Legs:  Have you ever seen people swirl their wine around their glass? One of the reasons that people do this is to help them see the “legs” of the wine, or the drops that slide down the side of the glass (which make little paths that look like legs). The more alcohol that there is in a wine, the thicker the legs are and the slower they will trickle down the side of your glass.    
  2. Look:  The “look” of your wine is a simple and casual visual assessment of the wine.

When describing a type of wine, use words like… 

  1. Blend:  A “blend” is a wine that is either made from one kind of grape from many different areas on a winery, or are two or more grapes that are blended to create a signature wine.   

When describing the structure of wine, use words like…

  1. Structure:  Structure refers to the layers of flavor in a wine, and how they relate to other elements. The acidity, tannins, and alcohol should all be harmonious and have a strong relationship that compliments the wine’s structure.       

  2. Varietal:  Not to be confused with blend, a “varietal” refers to a kind of wine that is made primarily from a single named grape variety. For example, Chardonnay is considered a varietal.

Some of the most famous wine regions in the world include… 

  1. Napa Valley:  The most famous region of the United States for wine, Napa Valley is located in Northern California, just east of San Francisco. This area is known mostly for its red wines, and particularly blends like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.    
  2. Bordeaux:  Arguably the most famous wine-growing region of the world. Bordeaux is particularly famous for its  red wines, which are world-renown for bringing us Merlot, Sauvignon varietals, and many more. Other regions in France, including Champagne (where bubbly comes from) and Burgundy, are almost, if not equally famous. France is also the place that brought us bubbly, from the high northern region of Champagne itself.
  3. Tuscany:  The Chianti region of Tuscany is the district most widely associated with wine making in Italy.  In addition to bringing us the crowd-pleasing Pinot Grigio and the sumptuous Chianti,  Tuscany also gives the world a variety of cooking wines, including Marsal. Italy is famous for its table wines, sharp white wines, and is also the place where Cavit wine originates!    

    Boom. Now you’re a wine expert. Enjoy all your newfound knowledge and be sure to bust out a few of these terms at your next dinner party!