How to translate the wine-speak like a true oenophile

Thursday, 17 January 2019
How to translate the wine-speak like a true oenophile

Have you ever been at a dinner party, listening to the other guests describing the wine you’re drinking in almost astonishing detail? Did you hear them talk about the tannins, palate or legs of the wine and were utterly stumped? Do you read wine reviews, looking for your next favourite drop, and not understand half of what you’re reading?

You’re not alone, we get it. We hear about this struggle all the time, so we thought we’d explain some of those common terms – the next time you’re discussing your favourite red, you’ll sound like James Halliday himself!


Acidity: refers to the tartness of a wine. High acidity wines might be described as crisp or crunchy, like our 2018 Grenache Rose, while wines with low acidity are ‘soft’. Acidity is a key element in successful food-and-wine pairing, and is responsible for the balancing and enlivening wine’s flavour. Food friendly wines generally have moderate alcohol balanced by crisp acidity.

Balance: describes the harmony (or lack of) among all the elements in the wine. A balanced wine is a seamless combination of all elements of wine, from fruit to alcohol to acids. Our 2017 Basket Pressed Merlot is a fresh and vibrant wine with great poise and balance!

Body: how weighty a wine feels in the mouth. Full-bodied wines are heavy and rich, like our 2017 Basket Pressed Shiraz, and light-bodied wines are feathery with little weight.

Complexity: refers to the aromas and flavours in a wine, and how they interact with one another.

Finish: describes the wine’s aftertaste, be it fruit, acidity, oak, or tannins (don’t worry, we’ll cover this one later).

Legs (or tears): these are the trickles of wine that run down the inside of a glass after you swirl it. The legs are clues to how much alcohol or residual sugar the wine contains: more alcohol or residual sugar results in thicker, slow legs.

Nose: a wine-tasting term used to describe how wine smells in the glass.

Palate: generally refers to the ability to taste and distinguish different characteristics of the wine. Our 2011 Ironmonger Cabernet Shiraz has a powerful and complex palate, with lashings of stewed fruit and dark chocolate.

Sweetness or dryness: refers to the presence/lack of sugar in the wine. Bone-dry wines have no residual sugar, with wines ranging from bone dry to dessert sweet in style.

Tannins: these come from the skins, seeds and stems of the grapes, but can also come from new oak barrels. Tannins can taste bitter and make your palate feel fuzzy, velvety, or give a chalky or powdery sensation. They will often be described as being course or fine, aggressive or soft depending on the style of wine. So while we often talk about "tasting" tannins its somewhat closer to "feeling" the level of tannin in a wine as you taste it. Our 2017 Reserve Nero d’Avola for example has fine, chalky tannins.

Texture: refers to the wine’s mouth-feel. The texture of a wine can be described as silky or astringent or dense. Our 2017 Basket Pressed Grenache has an excellent texture, resulting in a soft and generous mouth-feel.

Veraison: refers to the start of the ripening process when the grapes change colours and sweeten naturally.

Vintage: denotes the year the grapes were harvested, and the wine made.


If you’d like to go even deeper into describing the wine you’re drinking, you can also describe the style of wine, which, typically, consists of the following:

Brawny/muscular: these wines are big, robust reds with lots of tannins.

Earthy: a wine whose aromas and flavours are either minerally or evocative of rich soil. Our 2017 Basket Pressed Mataro has earthy undertones that provide a generous, robust mouth feel.

Fruit-forward: these wines are dominated by the flavours of fresh fruit – berries, apples, cherries and so on.

Oaky: wines described as oaky have a toasty, vanilla flavour that comes from aging in oak barrels.

Now that we’ve taught you how to speak wine-talk like a true oenophile, we can’t wait to see you at Kay Brothers’ cellar door to hear you describe what you’re tasting (or smelling, or seeing) like you’re one of us!

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