A glossary of hard to swallow wine terms

Wine is undoubtedly very enjoyable, but there’s quite a distinction between drinking it and being a connoisseur… or, more importantly an investor. So, how does one begin to gain an understanding of the world of wine? And, what can help you buy wine online? Well, breaking down the jargon and industry terminology is a great start. Here’s a nifty glossary to keep at hand!

What follows is an A-Z glossary of Wine information:

A – Acidity

Refers to the level of ‘tartness’ in a wine. Which can be a good thing. After all, it’s what makes a wine refreshing. All wines have a little bit of acidity – without it a wine would be dull and flat. Acidity causes the taste buds to recognise the other flavours in the wine, but it must always be balanced. A wine with an overpowering acidity can cause your face to shrivel up, not a good thing at all!

B – Body

Body breaks down into three categories – light, medium and heavy. Heavy or full bodied wines are characterised by their mouth coating density. A full-bodied wine is likely to be darker in colour. A large portion of colour comes from the skin of the grapes – some have a skin that is naturally thicker than others. It refers to the viscousness of the wine, so think of full cream milk, compared to skim and you’ve got a handle on the concept of body.

C – Coates Law of Maturity

This is a principle that relates to the ageing ability of wine. It was developed by British wine writer and Master of Wine: Clive Coates. It states that a wine will remain at its peak (or optimal) drinking quality for the same period as it took to reach that point of maturity. This means that, for example, if a wine is drinking at its peak after 2 years of maturity, it will remain at peak for 2 years.

D – Depth

This describes the taste of the wine. Much like a fine jewel needs facets to sparkle, a fine wine needs various dimensions to have depth. This is opposed to a wine being singularly flat.

E – Earthy

Damp soil may not sound like the most appealing this to taste, but this is exactly what this wine descriptor applies to. An earthy wine has a “green” finish. It may taste somewhat of mushroom or perhaps forest floor, which sounds quite strange indeed! It’s not the most complimentary term. The term earthy can also refer to a naturally occurring drying effect on the palate.

F – Finish

The lasting impression left in your mouth after you swallow some wine. The length of the finish (the longer the taste stays on your tongue) is the final indicator of the wine’s quality. It’s often the difference between a mediocre and a fine wine.

G – Grenache

Grenache is a grape variety – the most widely planted across the world. It’s also likely one of the oldest. Tt is believed that Grenache originated in Spain. It requires hot, dry conditions to flourish. Known for it’s bright, berry flavours of strawberry, raspberry and a hint of dry pepper to produce two very celebrated wines – Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Priora.

H – Halbtrocken

A medium-dry German wine. A dry German wine is called Trocken. It’s a name that is based on the standardisation of the weight of grapes which is related to the content of residual sugar. Halbtrocken sits midway between sweet and dry.

I – Ice Wine

Ice wine is made from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. It is called Icewine in Canada and Eiswein in Germany. The water composite in the fruit freezes while the water does not. When the grape is pressed, it results in a very sweet liquid. As such, Ice Wine is often served as dessert wine.

J – Jammy

A wine with a high-level of fruit flavour, a ‘cooked berry’ sweetness – exactly like jam, as the name suggests. Common jammy wines: Zinfandel, Grenache, Cabernet Franc.

K – Keg

Traditionally a small barrel for wine ageing and storing. May also refer to a new trend in wine which is ‘wine on tap’. Wine is served via stainless steel/disposable kegs and processed via the chemicals nitrogen and argon – thereby protecting from oxidization and producing an economical wine without any real wait time.

L – Legs

What on earth are wine legs? These are the droplets or streaks of water that form on the inside of a wine glass as you move the wine around. It has been commonly thought that this has a relationship to the quality of the wine. This is probably a myth – it has been scientifically shown that the droplets or streaks are an indication of alcohol content – and just that.

M – Minerally

This is a bit of a buzz word when it comes to wine. It refers to the taste of something that is almost imperceptible. Minerally is like what you might anticipate to be the flavour of flint or wet stone. Or, what the pavement might taste like if you lick it after is been raining! It is a bit of a generic term often used when a wine can’t be characterised by any other common descriptors.

N – Nose

The aroma or bouquet of a wine. Simply put, how a wine smells.

O – Oaked

Wine that is fermented in as oak wine barrel. It commonly adds butter and vanilla flavours, think of the term ‘creamy’.

P – Pressing

In the process of winemaking pressing is the extraction of juice from the grape. This can be done via a wine press, by the weight of the grape berries and clusters, or, even by hand or foot! Most modern wineries use a crusher and/or a destemmer to release some juice prior to the grapes being fully pressed. However, sparkling wine production is ‘whole-cluster pressed’ with stems included to produce a lighter wine.

Q – Quaffing wine

You would be forgiven for thinking that some wine terms are very rude words! To quaff means to drink in large quantities. And, a quaffing wine (albeit simple and unsophisticated in quality) is perfect for just that – it’s your everyday wine.

R – Rosso/Rouge

These are Italian and French terms for red wine.

S – Sommelier

A wine expert who often works in restaurants. They specialise in all aspects of wine and food pairing. Their principal work is in wine procurement, storage and rotation.

T – Tannin

Tannin (when it applies to wine) is a natural ingredient found in the fruit and the leaf of the grape that makes the finished product taste dry. The scientific word for tannin is polyphenol. As a characteristic of wine, tannin adds bitterness and astringency. These can be very good things as they are responsible for a more complex taste.

U – Unctuous

Unctuous is yet another very strange sound wine descriptor. And, while it sounds like it might refer to a very unpleasant situation – possibly like your glass of wine might be in fact be hiding a tiny demon – it’s actually a very complimentary term! It refers to a wine that has layers of soft, concentrated, velvety fruits. Unctuous wines and lush, rich and intense.

V – Varietal

Varietals are wines that are made from a single grape variety as opposed to blends which are made from a combination.

W – Wine Tasting

This is at the core of any wine lover’s experience. It is advisable to partake in these if you want to learn more about wine. It’s also advisable because wine is just so awesome! Wine tasting refers to the sensory evaluation of wine. It is about taste but it goes much further. It encompasses mouthfeel, aroma, colour etc.

X – Xylem

The woody tissue of a grape vine responsible for transporting water and nutrients from the roots toward the leaves.

Y – Yeast

Yeast in necessary for fermentation. Without this rather smelly substance we wouldn’t have the absolute miracle of life that is wine! When it comes to wine, yeast is a micro-organism present on the skin of grapes that reacts with the sugars inside, resulting in the production of ethyl alcohol. Hence, it’s the catalyst that gets that bit of fruit hanging on a vine to transform into the nectar of the gods.

Z – Zifandel

Zifandel is also known as Primitivo. This black-skinned grape produces a robust red wine.

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