Basic Wine Lingo 101

Sarah Limacher

Wine Expert

The jargon attached to the wine world can make it a hard to navigate! Ever wondered what tannin is? What’s the difference between sweet and fruity? What the heck is length in a wine?? Here’s a few words and their explanations that will hopefully make navigating the wine world a little easier and break you out of the “Crisp, dry and fruity” box. Wine is deeply personal so describe a wine however you feel comfortable, use your own personal experience, memories and experience to help. Nobody’s tasting notes are ever the same!


TANNIN … The T word. Tannin is that drying sensation you get in your mouth when you drink red wines (white wines also have tannins but red wines give you a better idea of the physical effect) Tannins come in many forms, some feel sandy like a lovely dry veil sweeping across your tongue, some feel crunchy like eating a spoonful of dry Milo, some are chewy but most importantly they add complexity and structure and can help in longevity of the wine. To get a better of what tannins feel like next time you eat a banana or drink a cup of tea, take a moment to notice the dryness in your cheeks.

LENGTH … Take a sip of whatever you are drinking, now swallow. Can you still taste the wine in your mouth after you’ve swallowed? Is there a lovely lingering aftertaste? This is what we call length. It’s always something I look for in great wine

OAK INFLUENCE … When wines spend time in Oak it imparts its flavours into the wine. Not all wines go into oak but when oak is used unjudiciously and with care it adds complexity, flavour and structure. I don’t let my wine team use oak as a descriptor unless it’s not nice oak, as the flavours and aromas oak imparts are beautiful and “OAK’ just reminds people of bad 80’s Chardonnay. Some common flavours and aromas that oak gives wine are Vanilla, Nuts, Smokiness, Fresh Bread, Brioche, Cinnamon, Spice and Coconut.

ACIDITY … Acidity is super in important in all wine styles. We often talk about it with white wines but forget about it too often in reds. Acidity is that lovely feeling that gets the saliva glands going. Words often associated with acidity are lively, energetic, nervy and juicy. Acidity is important because it makes you want to take another sip, its essential when pairing food and wine together and is critical in the overall balance of the wine.

BALANCE … Balance, Balance, Balance!!! I could rabbit on all day about the importance of balance, it’s the great culmination of all parts of the wine in harmony with each other mainly alcohol, tannin, acidity, fruit flavour, oak and sweetness. When I look at a wine with great balance nothing sticks out as being out of place or like a sore thumb. Everything is graceful and no one part is vying for attention. Great wines all have great balance and tend to have great longevity.

NOSE … The nose of the wine is essentially the aroma, it’s everything you smell, most commonly beginners mainly identify fruit aromas in wine as they are usually most recognisable, but wines have a whole host of aromatics including flowers, herbs, spice, oak, minerality and earth just to name a few. The word bouquet is traditionally used to describe the aromatics of older wine.

COMPLEXITY … A wine with complexity is one of the wines that brings me back to the glass over and over again with the invitation to discover something new or interesting everytime. A wine with many layers, flavours and facades. These are wine that capture your attention and interest. These are not necessarily big wines jam packed of flavour but often delicate wine with beguiling attention to detail and subdued aromatics and flavours.


Follow Sarah: Instagram | Twitter 


Visit our online Education Hub RESCU Me Academy for our courses, free ebooks and resources.

Like what you read? Subscribe to our free newsletter for exclusive content and special offers


Get your dose of fabulous delivered to your inbox.

Sign up for Rescu's newsletter to get updates on top stories, horoscopes, trending videos, and inspirational content.


Get fashion, beauty, finance, health and love advice from our experts.

Rescu is an online fashion, beauty and premium lifestyle site. Whether you are looking for fashion, beauty, finance, health and love advice you will find a wealth of information from our resident experts. We publish new content daily so don’t be left behind. Log on daily for the latest fashion, beauty and celebrity news as it happens. Subscribe to our newsletter and enter our contests to win fantastic freebies.