Wine & Food Pairing: Wine Vocabulary and Buzz Words

If you have every been to one of my cooking classes, you know that I put together a little packet that includes some'kitchen vocabulary', words that line cooks and chefs use in the kitchen, as well as some more 'definition' oriented cooking terms, techniques, etc. that are directly related to the class.

Well, for this Easy Pasta Dinners Williams-Sonoma Cooking Class series, I am also going to comment in class on how to do food and wine pairings. I won't be recommending bottles, prices, regions, etc. It'll be more helpful, a set of beginners rules on how to match food to wine, to find complementary and interesting combinations. It will allow you the knowledge to start matching, tasting and picking your own regional, $$$ limits and styles. Isn't that what learning in a 'class' is all about?

So just to share, for the classes I also put together a wine and food pairing packet that includes some 'wine vocabulary'. Just some basic definitions or buzz words that will help you feel confident the next time you walk into that wine shop and are challenged by the wine retailer.

Wine & Food Pairing Vocabulary & Buzza Words

Used as an adjective to describe sharp, tart or sour flavors. A cool area (Germany) produces wines high in acidity and a warm area produces wines that are low in acidity (California).

Wine is a food item that gets better with age. Each type of grape has a different science to aging it in order to produce the most complex wine possible. Some everyday wines don’t need any aging and can be drunk right away, other wines, such as port, can age for decades before it comes to its drinking age.

The trilogy of basic wine tasting, smelling or describing: tannin, fruit and acid.

barrel fermentation
When the grape juice is fermented in oak barrels to add more complex, buttery, oak flavor to the wine.

Tasting term to describe a style of wine, full bodied or light bodied. Full bodied has a weight in the mouth, tastes of alcohol and lots of extract or extract flavor and light bodied wines are completely the opposite.

The smell of wine, referring to all the complexities.

When wine is exposed in the bottle or while decanted to air for a period of time before drinking; allowing it to express its complexities more fully.

Usually referring to barrel-fermented wine describing the rich, creamy characteristic flavor of the wine.

cult wines
A wine that is very trendy, very scare and therefore usually very expensive.

When wine is poured out of its stored container into another container to breathe before serving and help remove sediments in the wine.

Usually referring to red wines that have a thickness to them that coats your mouth. The wines can also be highly extracted or over extracted that exponentially describes their thick factor.

The process where all the yeast eats up sugar in the grape juice extracted from the grapes and excretes alcohol, turning grape juice into wine. See YEAST.

A wine that has spirits added to it, like port or sherry.

The fruit smell or flavor in wine.

glass type
The type of glass that the wine is served in says a lot about the wine that is being served. The material it is made of, the stem length, the bowl shape, size, range, where you grab the glass and if it is hand washed or machine washed.

late harvest
A wine that was made with grapes that were harvested much later then normal, usually producing a much sweeter wine because the grapes where in the sun much, much longer.

New World
When a wine is produced in the new world. Basically, a non-European area.

Another term for the bouquet or smell of the wine; What is notable used to smell wine.

A term usually referring to whites, which expel a flavor or nuts.

The word referring to the level of oak in the wine. See BARREL FERMENTATION.

Old World
When a wine is produced in the old world. Basically, most European regions.

When a wine is overexposed to oxygen (perhaps not stored well – too hot in the cellar, broken cork, etc.), which eventually turns the alcohol to vinegar.

Robert J. Parker is the utmost respected and end-all critic of wine and therefore people refer to his descriptions, ratings, etc. almost as a separate part of rating, describing or referring to a wine. Read about his contributions, best selling books and uber-world famous wine rating system that literally affects the world wine market at

residual sugar
The amount of sugar leftover after fermentation.

show wine
A term that describes the critics positive response to the wine.

A tasting term that refers to the tannins and acidity of the wine.

The bitter skin of the grapes and can be used as an adjective that refers to that bitter, tooth-coating, dry sensation you get in red wine. It is a vital component in referring to red wine.

A living organism used in the production of bread and beer. Yeast, in the environment of sugar, produces carbon dioxide and alcohol. This process is called fermentation.

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