Decoding wine terminology

by Sylvia D.

The world of wine comes with its own set of seemingly complicated terms, but you don’t have to be an expert to understand the essentials. Here are our top 5 wine terms and their meanings to get you started:

1. Legs

If you swirl wine in a glass, you will notice that a thin amount will attach to the inside of your glass and then start running back down. The streaks the wine forms are called ‘legs’.

It has been said that legs are an indication of quality, but that is not the case. Legs simply give you a sign of the alcohol and sugar content for that particular wine - the more legs on the glass: the more alcohol it contains; and the slower the wine drips down the glass: the higher the sugar content.

Compare the legs of the Lost Lake 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon alongside those of the Fox Gordon 2013 By George Cabernet Tempranillo for a simple comparison.

2. Nose 

Smelling wine in a glass is an important step in identifying the subtle differences and characteristics of each variety: this is what is called the ‘nose’. Does the wine you are drinking have a delicate or strong smell? Is it fruity, floral, earthy or sweet? Can you identify the very specific scents within each wine you are trying?

See if you can detect the intense aromas of fresh berries with a hint of spice in the 2014 Atkins Farm Shiraz. 

3. Tannin

Tannins are compounds found in grape skins, seeds and stems. After pressing, they are released during the soaking process. The longer they soak in the juice, the stronger the tannins will be in the final product: hence, red wines have stronger tannins than white wines, as red wines derive their colour from being left on the crushed grapes with skins on. Tannins are what give wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon their characteristic dryness or astringency. If a wine is high in tannins it will make your mouth feel more dry.

Why not try and compare the strong tannins of the Fox Gordon 2014 Eight Uncles Shiraz alongside the softer tannins of the Fox Gordon 2013 By George Cabernet Tempranillo?

4. Oak

When wine has been fermented in oak barrels it will naturally draw flavour and texture from the barrels: you will be able to taste and smell an ‘oak’ element to the wine. If a new oak barrel is used, these elements will be more potent. Skilled winemakers work with all these features to create a balanced and soft finished product. 

Note this contrast by sampling the fresh and crisp Lost Lake 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon alongside a French oak barrel fermented wine like the Edwards 2013 Edwards Cabernet Sauvignon or Lost Lake 2013 Shiraz.

5. Palate

Palate is not just about taste: it is an integration of your taste buds, tongue, the various parts of your mouth and your nose. Palate brings together appreciation, experience and recognition. It takes time to develop a sensitive and knowledgeable palate. 

The best way to train and develop your palate is by paying close attention to your senses as you smell and taste your wine. It is best to try wine slowly, first looking and smelling it, then tasting. Try to separate and identify the specific flavours you are tasting. Remember to also note the texture and body of the wine. 

Test your palate on the Landings Map 2014 Map Series Shiraz that boasts red berries and sweet cherry, alongside the Vasse Felix 2014 Classic Dry Red, which has notes of fresh plums with a lovely fruit and nut chocolate carrying.

Category: Education



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