A Glossary of Wine Terms

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006 at 12:00 am

grapeWine Terms Acidity

The quality of tartness or sharpness in the taste of wine due to the presence of natural acids. Not to be confused with sourness, dryness, or astringency.

Balance

A balanced wine is one whose components – sugar, fruit, tannin, acid, alcohol, wood, and so forth – are evident, but do not mask or dominate one another.

Barrel Aging

The wine barrel serves three functions. First, it flavors the wine. Second, the barrel is a clarifier of the wine. As the wine resides in the barrel, particles drop to the bottom of the barrel clarifying the wine.

The third and most important function of the barrel is as an aging vessel. During this process minute amounts of oxygen pass through the porous wood. The oxygen is the catalyst that allows small tannin molecules, which make the wine bitter and astringent, to form larger chains. The result is a wine that’s perceived much softer on the palate.

Blush Wines

Are generally made with red grapes (some producers mix red and white grapes), but the juice has had a very brief contact with the grape skins. This produces wines that can range in color from shell pink to pale orange to barely red.

Blush wines can range from dry to sweet and may be light-to medium-bodied. They should be served chilled, but not icy. The term blush wine has all but replaced the more dated term "rosé."

Bouquet

The various fragrances noted by smell, created by the development of wine from the fermentation and aging process, whether in barrel or bottle.

Complexity

The various elements that make up bouquet, aroma, and taste in a wine. When a wine is described as having the aroma of fresh peaches or apples, it is displaying some of its complexities.

Corked

Describes an unpleasant musty odor (mushrooms) or flavor imparted to wine by a defective (moldy, poor, soft, or (disintegrating) cork or by chemicals used in the processing of corks.

Decant

To pour off a wine gently without disturbing the sediment.

Decanter

A glass bottle used for serving wine.

Dry

A wine with little or no noticeable sugar, usually containing less than 0.2 percent sugar. On champagne and sparkling wines, dry often refers to faintly sweet – not as dry as brut.

Finish

The tactile and flavor impressions left in the mouth while a beverage is being swallowed. Some beverages finish harsh, hot, and astringent, while others are smooth, soft, and elegant.

Fortified Wine

One to which brandy or other spirit has been added. Fortified wines contain 15 to 24 percent alcohol, as compared to most other wines which contain up to 15 percent alcohol. Such wines include Madeira, port and sherry.

Full-Bodied

A term relating to the body or mouth-filling capacity of a wine. Additionally, it applies to wines that are robust, intensely flavored, and comparatively high in sugar, or alcohol content.

Generic Wine

"Place-name" – wines that are named after wine producing districts such as Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne, Port, Rhine, Sauternes, Sherry, and so forth.

Maturity

The stage in the aging of wines when they have developed all of their characteristic qualities to full perfection.

Oaky

The odor and/or flavor of wines aged in small oak barrels. Some oak barrels impart a toasty or spicy vanillin odor and taste which is desirable in moderation but undesirable if exaggerated.

Tannin

A bitter compound found in the seeds, stems, and skins of grapes, and is extracted from wooden barrels. It is quite astringent and causes a puckering sensation in the front of the mouth.

Varietal Wine

The name of the dominant grape used in a wine – Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, and Sangiovese. Varietal wines require that at least 75 percent of that grape variety is used.

Vintage Wine

A wine made from grapes harvested in a specific year, which is indicated on the wine label.

Non-Vintage Wine

A wine made from the juice of grapes harvested from several years. There is no year noted on the label of a non-vintage wine.