I recently went to a Wine101 class and he approached it by helping us to just describe what we are smelling and tasting. With 9 simple wine terms, we are able to communicate what we are looking for in a wine.
Sweet, Dry, and Fruity
Sweet and Dry are opposites and only refer to sugar content in the wine. A sweet wine usually has alcohol percentage under 10%, while a wine with an alcohol percentage over 13% will have little to no sugar content left leaving it dry. Fruity is simply referring to an aroma. And since wine comes from a grape, it should always lead with a fruit based aroma. Fruity tends to be more dominant in new world wines (USA, Australia, South America etc).
Acidic, Soft, and Tannic
An acidic wine is all about salivating. How much salivation will tell exactly how much and what type of acids are in the wine. A wine with a lack of acidity is called a soft wine. A merlot is usually considered a soft wine. A wine with tannin leaves a astringent feeling in the mouth. Tannins can be caused by the following three things: oak, grape skins or grape stems. That big, bold cabernet from California usually provides a good example.
Body, Balance, and Finish
The body of wine refers to its impression of weight it leaves in your mouth. You can think of it as the richness of the wine. You can have a light, light-medium, medium, medium-full and full body wine. The balance of a wine is how well the fruit, body, acidity, tannins ect. act together. It’s about getting them to all work in harmony and compliment one another. Finish is everything that happens when you swallow the wine. Are you salivating? Do you have a bitter taste? Does it linger? What impression does it leave?
As confusing as wine can be, these terms should help anyone describe what they want in a wine. So go ahead and drink a glass and use these terms to help you relay what you smell and taste.