You'd be hard pressed to find an industry with more buzzwords or confusing descriptive terms than the wine trade. At Advintage we try and avoid all the flowery stuff but sometimes we cave in and wax lyrical or talk nerdy. If you want to know what we were raving on about here are some clues....
Wine grapes have a number of naturally occurring acids, including tartaric, malic, and citric. They are what gives many wines their pleasing and refreshing tartness.
The flavour that stays in the mouth after swallowing wine. It's finish may be buttery, oaky, spicy or tart.
Aging on the Lees:
Storing wine prior to bottling in contact with the yeast sediment (lees) from the fermentation.
Alcohol is produced naturally by yeast during the fermentation process and adds much of the wine's body. The active yeast converts the natural sugars in the grape juice into alcohol and carbon dioxide, which is released from the fermenting tank. Alcohol is an essential component of the wine, giving it body and backbone, but no smell or taste.
Alcohol can add a weighty feeling in the mouth, arid warmth as the wine is swallowed.
Alcohol by volume:
The percentage of alcohol contained in a wine.
Astringent wines often have excess tannin, coagulating proteins in the mouth to give a drying sensation. An astringent wine may be young and in need of aging - or may need to breathe.
The texture of a wine created by acidity, tannin, or both. Big, full-bodied reds are usually said to have a good deal of backbone. Wines without backbone taste softer and are gentler on the palate.
Wine has a number of components competing for your attention, including fruit, acids, alcohol, sometimes tannins, sometimes sugar, sometimes oak. Part of the winemaker's art is to emphasize some component or to balance them.
Fermenting wine in wooden barrels, usually oak, as distinct from fermenting in stainless steel.
Blending involves selecting the percentages of each type of grape, and then wine, for the final blend, having regard to the results of the vintage and is the key task of the winemaker.
Body is the wine's "weight in the mouth" ... light, medium, or full. Merlot is normally a full-bodied wine; Sauvignon Blanc a light - or medium-bodied one.
In spite of the unappetizing name, Botrytis cinerea or the "Noble Rot," is truly amazing and is partly responsible for many of the world's greatest dessert wines. Under the right conditions the Botrytis mould attacks the skin of the grape, allowing the water to partially evaporate. The remaining juice is, of course, much more concentrated than normal. The grape clusters 'look' positively awful and are exceedingly fragile as well. But oh, what an elixir comes out of the press.
Refers to the aroma of a wine ... the first indicator of quality during tasting. These are the smells associated with the grape variety, region and condition of the wine.
Allowing wine to mix with the air to freshen and brighten a wine that has been cellared. This is normally achieved by pouring the wine into a decanter. While beneficial for many red wines and some young whites, extended breathing can see the wine begin to go bad.
"Buttery" is most often used as a flavour descriptor in reference to rich, full-bodied Chardonnays that have gone through malolactic fermentation (see malolactic fermentation).
Cabernet Franc (cab-er-nay frahn):
A red grape variety and member of the Cabernet family. Bright raspberry fruit and occasionally leafy tobacco and green herb flavours. Typically softer than Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cabernet Sauvignon (cab-er-nay so-vee-n'yon):
A red grape variety. Widely planted with Bordeaux as its historical reference point. Fashionable grapes produced almost everywhere, with the common denominator of high tannin and firm, blackcurrant dominated characters. Often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Flavours run from red cherry to blackcurrant and are usually quite assertive.
A white grape variety. The white wine darling of the wine world that has suffered a bit of a back lash recently (from acronym-lovers calling themselves ABC's - anything but Chardonnay). Chardonnay responds well to oak in both fermentation and ageing. The flavour most people associate with Chardonnay is that of oak, as the grape is non-aromatic. Varies widely in style from the crisp lemon-lime-mineral flavours of classic Chablis to rich, oaky, buttery wines from California, New Zealand and other areas of the "new world."
Chenin Blanc (sheh-nan blahn):
A white grape variety. Not very trendy grape but a perfect grape for the New Zealand climate. Can be bone dry, medium or lusciously sweet. New-world versions are usually pleasant quaffers while bottlings from the Loire run the gamut from bone-dry, steely intense wines to glorious dessert wines redolent of honey and tropical fruit. Long lived and improves remarkably with age.
A population of vines derived by propagation from a single "mother" vine. Different clones may have subtle genetic differences and contribute different qualities to a finished wine.
Wines that have many layers of flavour or that seem to unfurl and change over time in the glass are referred to as complex.
Corked wine has gone bad, with an unpleasant, musty, mouldy smell, imparted by a flawed cork containing bacteria. On average, around 1 bottle in 14 is affected to some degree, despite manufacturers bleaching and processing to avoid this problem.
Crisp wine has a lively acid level.
A silk-like texture some wines have in the mouth. Creamy is in contrast to crisp.
The flavours in wine that emerge after aging for a period of time in the bottle.
A red grape variety. In the dialect of Piedmont, northern Italy, Dolcetto means "little sweet one". This is not because the wines are sweet but because the grapes ripen relatively easily. With its dark plum and berry fruitiness and youthful appeal, Dolcetto is the sort of wine that is consumed daily in Piedmont. There are now small amounts of Dolcetto being made successfully outside Italy as well, particularly in California.
Dry wine has a low level of residual sugar. Most table wines are dry.
The complexity and elegance, subtlety and delicacy of a wine.
Is the process of clarifying wine by introducing agents that cling to suspended particles in the wine and fall to the bottom, where they are removed.
The way flavours and textures linger or fail to linger on the palate after a wine is swallowed. "This wine has a silky finish".
Wines that give you an immediate impression of fruitiness. Wines that seem to be hiding their flavours are said to be "closed." Fragrant wines have strong floral, spice, and fruit aromas such as pineapple, blackberry, peach, apricot, and apple... primarily determined by the variety of the grape.
A white grape variety that traces its origins not to Germany as is often thought, but to the Alps of Northern Italy. The grape has one of the most exotic and flamboyant personalities of the wine world. Most successfully produced in the Alsace region of France.
Usually used in reference to Sauvignon Blanc and very difficult to describe without a glass in hand. Refers to the herbaceous aromas and flavours reminiscent of newly cut spring grasses. Tasters often describe this quality in Sauvignon Blanc as "gooseberry."
A red grape variety. Widely planted in southern France and in Spain and a frequent component in Rhone-style blends produced in other parts of the world. Flavours redolent of strawberry and red berry without a great deal of tannin.
The amount of time the flavours linger on the palate after a wine is swallowed. Often used on conjunction with "finish". "This wine has a very long finish".
The process of leaving the wine on its skins after fermentation. This process extracts "anthocyans" (or skin pigments), flavour compounds and tannin from the skins into the juice.
1.5 litres. Twice the size of a regular 750 ml bottle.
A red grape variety. In the Bordeaux region of France, in California, and in other parts of the world, the Malbec grape variety is usually used as a blending component with Cabernet-based wines. In Cahors, south western France, it is blended with Merlot. In Argentina, on the other hand, it is widely planted and frequently bottled solo. Malbecs tend to be fairly deep in colour with dark berry flavours and a fair amount of tannin.
A secondary fermentation that converts most of the malic acid in wine to lactic acid. Lactic acid is the principal acid found in dairy products, contributing a "creamy" texture to the wine.
A red grape variety. It is most famous in wines such as Chateau Petrus from the Pomerol region of Bordeaux. While capable of producing red wine with a soft, plummy character that is immediately appealing, it is also capable of producing wines of substantial intensity that will age for many years in the cellar. Generally softer in style than Cabernet and higher in alcohol. Flavours include plum, mint, fruit cake and game.
When you take a sip of good wine there is often a sequence of flavour and texture impressions. The mid-palate is the impression registered as you hold the wine in your mouth for a moment but before you swallow.
A red grape variety. Also known as Mataro, Mourvedre is widely planted in southern France, Spain and California. Mourvedre's most famous incarnation can perhaps be found in the vineyards of Bandol in Provence.
A white grape variety with a very extended family. The Muscat grape produces delicately perfumed wines, fine bubblies from northern Italy, and shamelessly hedonistic dessert wines from Australia and other parts of the world.
The red grape variety responsible for Barolo and Barbaresco from the Piedmont region of northern Italy - which must be counted among the world's great red wines. Usually quite tannic but with age can mellow into wines of extraordinary complexity and finesse.
In spite of the unappetizing name, Botrytis cinerea or the "Noble Rot, "is truly amazing and is partly responsible for many of the world's greatest dessert wines. Under the right conditions the Botrytis mould attacks the skin of the grape, allowing the water to partially evaporate. The remaining juice is, of course, much more concentrated than normal. The grape clusters "look" positively awful and are exceedingly fragile as well. But oh, what an elixir comes out of the press.
Oak is used in the construction of wine barrels. Oak imparts flavours and tannin to wines during the barrel aging process.
Oxidised wines have been overexposed to air. White wines turn dark gold, lack freshness, and have a "sherry" nose and flavour.
The measure of the Hydrogen Ion concentration in grapes and wine. Wine is acidic, with pHs generally between 3 and 4.
Pinot Blanc (pee-no blahn):
A white grape variety. Thought for many years to be a relative of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc is actually a white variation of Pinot Noir. It runs the gamut from crisp, dry, citrusy whites to wines of sufficient richness and intensity that could easily pass for a well-oaked Chardonnay.
Pinot Gris/Grigio (pee-no gree - pee-no gree-d'jo):
A white grape variety. Also related to Pinot Noir, the name literally translates as "gray Pinot." Typically at its richest in Alsace and at its leanest in northern Italy.
Pinot Noir (pee-no n'wahr):
A red grape variety. Pinot Noir is the great red grape of Burgundy. New Zealand is thought by many to be the only place in the world producing Pinot Noir even close to that of the quality of the French. It ranges in style from wines of amazing delicacy and grace to wines of voluptuous, velvety intensity. Expect flavours of raspberry, chocolate, jam, black cherries and truffles. A wine for sensualists.
The overt fruitiness of a young wine that inspires easily recognized descriptors such as "black cherry", or "raspberry". Wines tend to lose primary fruit as they age, picking up qualities that result from time in the bottle and are even more difficult to describe with precision.
A white grape variety. Perhaps the world's most misunderstood white grape variety and, in our estimation, the world's finest. Tarred by a terrible brush as always sweet (as if sweetness is automatically a bad thing!). Riesling can actually be dry, medium or sweet. Flavours can range from lemon, lime, peaches, pineapple, honey, and, with age, gasoline (don't baulk you don't know what you're missing) Riesling has remarkable longevity.
A red grape variety. The most important red wine grape of Tuscany and the backbone of world-famous wines such as Chianti. Styles range from bright, simple cherry fruit to assertive, richly flavoured reds with potential for years in the cellar.
Sauvignon Blanc (so-vee-n'yohn blahn):
A white grape variety. After Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc is the trendy white grape. It is usually dry or off-dry. Sauvvy has a particularly assertive personality and typical flavours run from citrus, gooseberry, grassy, capsicum and passionfruit like to round, rich, melon and figs. It doesn't generally age well, except in the case of French Sauternes. Drink it young and fresh.
A white grape variety. Frequently used as a blending grape with Sauvignon Blanc, but capable of success on its own. Figures prominently in the wines of the Sauternes region of Bordeaux. Also produces excellent dry, full-boded whites in Australia.
Usually used to refer to red wines that are smooth or gentle on the palate.
Syrah / Shiraz / Hermitage (see-rah):
A red grape variety. Ranks with Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir as one of the world's great red wine grapes. Most prominent in France's Rhone Valley with such legendary wines as Cote-Rotie and Hermitage. Also very successful in Australia, where it is known as Shiraz, and increasingly in other parts of the world as well. Flavours include blackcurrant, spice, pepper, mint and eucalyptus. Medium or full-bodied, powerful alcohol and generally oak aged.
The substance in wine that imparts astringency. Tannins occur naturally in grapes and sometimes in the wood in which wine is stored.
Many red and white wines are aged, fermented, or both in small oak barrels. Depending on the way in which the barrel was coopered, there may be a slight char or "toast" left on the inside surface. For the first year or two of use the charred surface will have a flavour impact on the wine. Other tasting descriptors that charred oak might inspire are "smoky", "vanilla", "toffee" and "caramel". The impression of sweet spices such as "cinnamon" or "clove" is similarly linked to wood aging.
Some wines seem to present their entire personality in the first two to three seconds during tasting. They can be delicious but are not particularly complex in character. You might say they come right to the point.
A white grape variety. One of the world's most exotic white wine varieties with its perfumed nose of honey, stone fruits and tropical flowers. Can be quite lush and seductive in the mouth as well.
A red grape variety. With origins not entirely established by wine world scholars, Zinfandel is nevertheless at home in California. Wine styles run the gamut from blush wines with just the barest hint of colour to nearly opaque, inky monsters.