5 Commonly Confused Wine Terms

Wine can be intimidating, but we’re here to educate and give you the tidbits of information you need to feel confident. Master the below commonly confused terms, and you’ll come across like an expert the next time wine is being poured.

  • Tannins vs. Dry
    Tannins create the tactile, physical sensation on your tongue. They are derived from the skins and seeds of grapes and from barrels, as well. They give wine a sense of bitterness or astringency.

    Dryness is a mouthfeel (and can also be used to describe the sweetness of a wine—see Fruity vs. Sweet.) A wine is dry due to the presence of tannins. So if your mouth feels chalky after a glass of wine, that’s due to tannins binding with proteins on your tongue.

    Fun fact: Consuming proteins will cancel out that dry mouthfeel. This is why our Cabernets are a popular pairing with steak or aged cheeses.

  • Fruity vs. Sweet
    Fruity is both an aromatic and a flavor. But sweet is a taste—a physical sensation. (It’s one of the five basic tastes: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness and umami.) Sweet isn’t a smell. If you smell something sweet, it’s your perception that it might be sweet.

    In terms of wine, dry wines—like our Cabernets—are not sweet, but they are fruity.

  • Large Format vs. Magnum
    Magnum sounds big, but in wine terms, it’s a 1.5L bottle—or two standard 750mls. Large format refers to bottles that are bigger than magnums. For us, that includes our 3L, 6L, 12L and 18L bottles.

    Read A Quick Guide to Wine Bottle Sizing for more information.


  • Vintage vs. Old
    In the wine industry, “vintage” doesn’t have the same meaning as it does when used to describe your denim jeans. Vintage refers to the year—the number on the wine bottle, not an age. If you’re reading a Silver Oak product card, you’ll also come across a vintage description. This is our winemaker’s account of what happened in the vineyards that year. If you add the word “old” to describe a specific vintage, then you’re associating an age to that bottling. For example: “This is a 1995 Napa Valley Cabernet. I love older vintages.”

  • Vineyard vs. Winery
    We love seeing you at our Napa Valley Winery and Alexander Valley Winery! At each winery, we have a production facility (you can see where we make our Cabernet by booking a tour) and a tasting room. But the vineyards—or where we grow and/or source our wine grapes—aren’t usually places where we’d meet. Of course, there are exceptions like our Alexander Valley vineyard which you see surrounding our winery there.

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