Maybe you haven’t noticed, but wine has become something of a trend these past few years in most countries—wine bars, wine tours, organic wine….there are even popular hashtags on social media like #momswhoneedwine ! You don’t need to follow the trends to enjoy drinking wine, and you don’t even need to be an expert. But when we drink wine, talking about it is half the fun. And if you are following an immersion course in English, or trying to learn it on your own, wine can be a great icebreaker and, believe it or not, it can even help you speak!

Speaking about wine can be complicated, but if you have a few basic vocabulary terms up your sleeve, you’ll be able to sound like a real sommelier in no time at all! So without futher ado, here are 5 key terms in English to speak about wine. Do you know what they are in your native language?

5 Terms (and more!) to Speak About Wine in English:

Grape variety – This is the type of grapes that were used to make the wine, also commonly called the French term “cépage.” Some wines have just one variety in a bottle, others are a blend of many varieties. Some grape varieties you might know are pinot noir or chardonnay. But in fact there are actually around 10,000 grape varieties in the world. Do you know which ones are native to your country?

The nose – I am sure you know this word—after all we all have a nose on our face! But “the nose” is also the term used to describe the perfume or aroma of a wine. When you swirl your wine in the glass and put your nose in to have a smell, you are examining “the nose.” What do you smell? Fruit, nuts, coffee, flowers, wood, leather, smoke…? The nose that you perceive is unique to one’s own experience with aromas. That means THERE IS NO WRONG ANSWER when it comes to discussing the nose—great news!

The palate – The palate is a fancy word for the taste of a wine. Like the nose, the taste that you experience is unique to your own taste buds and tasting experience in your life. Some people may be able to perceive very subtle flavors, while you do not. Don’t worry, this is normal! What kind of palate does the wine have? Is it acidic, sweet, astringent, smooth? Do you taste the same thing as you perceived in the nose? They can be the same or very different!

The appearance – This is often called “the robe” which is French for “the dress,” as if your glass were wearing a fancy dress. When you look at a wine, what does it look like? What color is it? Does it appear thick or watery? Is it clear or cloudy? Does it have thick or thin legs—the big drops of wine that run down the inside of the glass? You can tell a lot about a wine from its appearance.

Wine type – This is probably the most basic wine term, but oh so important! What type of wine do you prefer? There are so many to choose from, but personally I like a dry white wine or a sparkling wine. Perhaps light red wine for summer, or a fortified wine in winter. Purchase a wine for aging as a gift, or a young wine to drink right away. Of course there’s always the classic, full bodied red wine.

So now you have the words, but how do you use them? The answer is: often!

Invite friends for an English-language after work drink, go to a wine tasting in English, or go to the local anglophone pub. You can even visit a wine merchant when you go on holiday to an English-speaking country and have a chat. Remember, the key to learning vocabulary is using it in a real context and making memories that your brain will connect to the experience. That’s why wine is perfect for immersion learning!


Have you ever tried speaking about wine in English?

Did you find it difficult?

Leave us a comment below!




April is an e-marketing specialist, English instructor and freelance writer living in Grenoble, France.

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