Basic Wine Vocabulary

This film is part of a series by Neil Smith, owner of the WineSmith wine shop in Ashburn, Virginia.

Transcript

Neil Smith: Hi, my name is Neil Smith with WineSmith and today, I am showing you how to pair wine with food. Right now, I am going to spend a few minutes talking about wine vocabulary just to explain a few terms that I will be using throughout the course of video. We are going to start with the term sweet and dry and it’s helpful to talk about dry wine first.

When wine is made, it starts with sugar. There is sugar that’s naturally present in the grapes and the fermentation process converts that sugar into alcohol. When all of the sugar is fermented into alcohol, there is no residual sugar left behind and you are left with a dry wine. If some of the residual sugar is – if some of the sugar is left in the wine it’s called residual sugar and if it’s significantly present, then the wine is considered as sweet wine and you do have a level in between called semi-dry but we will talk about that in a few minutes.

So, some wines can be dry, but still have enough fruitiness to them that they have an impression of sweetness. So it’s helpful to think about a jar of jelly for example. Some wines have are considered jammy or jelly-like in the sense that they have very concentrated fruitiness and although, the wine is technically, dry it has some of its fruitiness that it seems somewhat sweet. So it’s an important distinction to make. Generally speaking, your sweet wines are only reserved for things like dessert in the parties. The next term I want to talk about briefly is acidity. Acidity is a very important component in wine because it helps a wine to stay clean and crisp. If you think about something like a lemon wedge that has a lot of acidity and you squirt a little lemon over your fish or chicken helps to bring out the flavors. Acidity also helps to make your mouth feel clean. So that if you take a bite of food and then follow that with a sip of the clean white wine that’s high in acidity, it helps your mouth feel clean and ready for another bite.

The final term I am going to discuss is tannins. Tannins are also naturally present in wine just like they are in tea. If you think about leaving a teabag in the water too long you get a very tannic effect and the tea has astringency or it has the mouth drying feeling. Wines that are high in tannins can have the same effect and tannins can come from two places. One is naturally present in the wine and the other is when a wine is aged in oak for a significant period of time it can have additional tannins that it leaches from the oak. So those are the most important terms we will be using throughout the video today. So now let’s get into the connection between wine and food and the five rules for pairing wine and food.

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