Wine Terminology / Glossary of Wine Terms
Hopefully this list will help explain the wine terms used in our Tasting Notes for your cleanskins.com wine... Not to mention be educational!
Acidic components give wine its longevity, but they need to be present in balance with other components of the wine. Acidity forms a vital part of the "structure" of the wine.
Also known as "finish", aftertaste is the the taste that lingers in the back of your mouth after tasting or swallowing that indicates complexity.
Alcohol is produced by fermentation, and in this context means ethyl alcohol (C2H50H) produced by the action of yeasts on grape sugars during the fermentation.
Aroma is the word used by wine experts to describe the grapey smell of wine, largely used to describe the wines with a floral or spicy smell. It comes from the grapes and often accompanies the wood aromas.
Tannins produce a drying taste in the mouth. It is the tactile sensation that an excess of tannin leaves on the insides of your mouth. You can detect astringency by the 'puckering' of your mouth as the tannins hit your taste buds. Tannins come from grape-skins, seeds and oak.
Balance refers to the harmonious presence of different elements in wine: sweetness, acidity, fruit, tannins and alcohol, such that no single element dominates.
Combining two or more grape varieties, vintages or locations to create balance, increase quality or maintain consistency.
Blind tasting is an attempt to identify and/or assess wines without knowing the identity of the wine.
'Full-bodied' describes a wine with fullness of flavour in the mouth; conversely, 'light-bodied' means the opposite. It is an important measure of a wines weight that is predominantly determined by its alcoholic strength and also the extract. The more body that a wine has the less like water it tastes.
The time a wine has spent in the bottle after making and oak aging.
A Latin term for fungus encompassing all the rots, which can affect grapes and damage the resulting wine. In one specific form however, it does not harm the grapes and produces a lush complex sweet wine commonly called "dessert wine" or "Sauternes style".
Bouquet is the smell given off by a wine when the bottle is opened. It arises from the slow oxidation of alcohol and fruit acids into esters and ethers.
What a wine will do once you open a bottle and expose the wine to air. In older wines it will allow for off-flavours to dissipate however, modern winemaking hygiene is making this process unnecessary. This is more necessary for young wines as they are very often taut and closed and will benefit by the process of sloshing a wine into a decanter and leaving it for a while before drinking.
Perfectly clear wine with no suspended particles. Bright colour is an important pointer to wine quality, except in premium red wine where some crust can be expected to form after bottle maturation.
Dry, usually applied to sparkling wines. Commercial brut styles now have a small amount of liquoring added to sweeten the wine somewhat, hence the growth of the term brut-de-brut, suggesting that the wine is fully dry.
A major variety of red (or black) grape, considered by many to produce the finest red wines in the world. It is the classic centrepiece of the clarets of the Médoc in Bordeaux. Widely grown in most areas of Australia.
Cellar or Cave
A cellar or cave is a place of storage for wine. Usually underground where the temperature can be maintained at constant levels. 14-15c is the preferred temperature for wines.
A cellarmaster is the manager or "the Chief" of a cellar.
A big wine with noticeable tannins is usually described as "chewy".
What the red wines similar to those of Bordeaux in France were commonly called until recent years whereby mimicking French wines has been outlawed.
Describes a wine that has no off-flavours or other nasties in a wine. Usually used to describe a wine that is refreshing.
Describes a wine without much smell (same meaning as "dumb").
Course is the term for a rough or crude very ordinary wine without much interest.
The depth of colour is an extremely important indicator of quality and condition. Darker colours in whites usually indicate older wines, while red wines tend to lighten and tawny with age.
Complexity in a wine indicates many different, well-merged flavours to add interest and personality to a wine to the point of being fascinating.
Corked (Cork Taint)
Corked (or cork taint) describes a wine whose quality is affected by an off-flavour from the cork. It is perceived as a mouldy, 'rotten wood' smell and sometimes bitter taste. About 3% of wines worldwide are affected.
Crisp is a complimentary term for white wine with refreshing acidity.
Crust is the heavy sediment, which forms in a wine.
Large Vat or Tank, which wine, is fermented.
The entire contents of a Cuvé made at any one time.
Transferring red wine from a bottle to a decanter for the purposes of removing the crust or to allow the wine substantial exposure to air so that it can breathe.
Rather fine light bodied wine without very strong flavour but well balanced.
Deposit is the residue of a wine that forms in the bottle (see Crust).
A wine with very little or no nose, common in youthful well made wines.
Dry is a term to describe the absence of sweetness in a wine. This is a description, which all sugars have been converted to alcohol.
A complimentary term to describe wine that has class, breeding, finesse and style.
Esters are compounds of alcohol and organic acids that give flavours and bouquet to a wine.
Estery is the fruity odour developing from the slow formation of esters in the wine.
Extract is the sum of all solids in the wine including sugars, tannins, pigments and minerals, giving the wine substance.
Describes a fleshy wine with too much alcohol and rich in glycerol and extract.
The lingering taste of a wine after it has been swallowed or spat out. High tannin content might produce a 'firm finish', or lack of flavour might yield a 'short finish'.
Term referring to taste experience at the back of the palate, caused by tannins.
Flabby describes a wine, which has too low in acid structure, leaving the wine "bland".
Used by wine experts to describe a wine that is lifeless, dull and boring.
Fortified wines are where spirit has been added to increase their natural strength. Brandy is added to sherry and Port.
A colourless, sweet-tasting substance which can add to the "impression" of body in a wine.
A young wine with too much acidity.
A wine with too much tannin.
A wine with too much alcohol and too little acidity for the fruit and sugar levels.
Synonym used frequently for the red-grape variety Shiraz, originating from Hermitage in the Rhone valley in France.
A wine with quite a lot of alcohol but too little fruit to give the mouth a satisfying flavour or weight once in the mouth.
Horizontal tasting refers to a comparative tasting of different but related representatives of the same wine or vintages.
A wine with too much alcohol is described as hot.
A red wine that tastes metallic, acidic and often rather thin.
A thin wine lacking in fruit but not acid.
Columns of wine that trickle down the inside of a glass that indicates high alcohol content in wine.
A full-flavoured, rich, ripe, fruity and sweet-flavoured wine is described a luscious.
A grape variety once important in Bordeaux. A small amount is grown in Australia.
A tart fruit acid converted into lactic acid during malolactic fermentation.
The period in a wines life that can be described "after youth but before its decline". It can be 3 years or 3 decades depending on the wine. Mature is a complimentary term as opposed to old or faded.
A substantial and full-bodied fruit flavour, often just as the tannin is beginning to allow the emergence of the fruit.
Awards from Australian wine shows for well-made wines. The capital-city wine shows are the most reliable indicators of quality. Gold medals are awarded to wines attaining 18.5 points or more out of twenty points; silver medals, 17.0 to 18.4; and bronze, 15.5 to 16.9.
Premium red-grape variety, usually blended with other reds (such as Cabernet Sauvignon). Widely grown in France and used as a blend in Bordeaux and other areas. Can lend a pleasing 'velvety' texture and agreeably fruity flavours to a red-wine blend. Increasingly popular as a single varietal wine.
Méthode Champenoise is the authentic French method for making bottled-fermented sparkling wines. That's why Cleanskins.com is only allowed to call its wines made in this fashion "Bubbly".
Crushed grape berries with the storks and stems removed.
Oak is a variety of the wood Genus Quercus. Wines are usually stored in oak containers, to impart extra and more complex flavours. French, American and German oak barrels are widely used in Australia, but are getting quite expensive as quality oak becomes scarcer.
Oaky describes a wine that smells and/or tastes of oak.
Oenology is the science of winemaking.
Wine that has been exposed to air has become stale and flat. It usually takes on a strong acetic acid (vinegar) smell.
A perfumed wine has lots of smell, usually of a slightly musky sort. This is typically a white wine term.
Phylloxera is a vine louse, which attacks grape vine with a devastating effect. It is a native of America's Eastern regions it destroyed most of Europe's vines during 1862 and the end of the nineteenth century, along with almost all of Victoria's vines.
The classic red grape of Burgundy, and one of the varieties that helps make champagne in France. Generally produces lighter styles of red wine, though can (when well made) have intense and deep flavours.
Port is a superb, sweetish dessert wine, a fortified red wine, the name coming from Oporto on the Douro River in Portugal. Port is an after-dinner drink of quite high alcohol content (17 to 20 per cent). They have great keeping qualities thanks to added brandy and high natural sugar content. There are 2 main types of port wines:
- tawny ports are blended wines that have usually been kept by the maker in wood barrels for some years in order to mature them for drinking when sold;
- vintage ports (which bear a year of origin on the label) are usually sold early by the maker and the consumer does the cellaring until the wine is ready for drinking
Powerful describes a wine with lots of very easy to discern flavour and alcohol.
The measure of the degree of alcohol by volume present in a wine is called proof.
Riesling is a grape from the Rhine area of Germany and is one of the world's classic grapes. A grossly underestimated and misunderstood variety that still makes, and always will make, some of the finest Australian white wines. Also known as Rhine Riesling.
Rosé is a much-misunderstood wine style. It should be the classic summer red of Australia. Light, fresh and fruity wine made from red grapes, either sweet, medium or dry - but best as a dry, yet flavoursome, young wine.
Sauvignon Blanc is a white-grape variety from Bordeaux and the Loire areas of France, where it makes superb sweet and dry white wine. Its grassy/steely and sometimes asparagus-like character attracts either love or loathing. Do try a good one or two, because it is different. Sometimes blended with Semillon.
Sémillon is a great French (especially Bordeaux) white-grape variety. Usually makes dry, sometimes wood-matured, full-bodied whites in Australia, notably in the Hunter Valley.
Sharp is a term to describe the acid taste on the palate. Not necessarily unpleasant.
Versatile Australian red-grape variety, also widely referred to (especially on old labels) as hermitage. Makes some excellent and often reasonably priced red wines in most areas, and is best known for its parentage of Penfolds Grange.
A wine with no length of finish or flavour is described a short.
A wine with mild tannin or acid sensation with no harshness on the palate and after-palate is called soft.
A more cost effective alternative to the traditional cork closure for wine bottles (which is a limited resource made from the sap of the endangered cork tree), particularly for wines that are likely to be drunk fairly soon rather than cellared. Stelvin is neutral for taste and aroma so doesn't contaminate the wine.
Sulphur dioxide (SO2)
Chemical used as an anti-oxidant in winemaking. The smell of sulphur dioxide can be present in a newly opened bottle of wine, but it should dissipate. With today's truth-in-labelling laws, it is referred to on food and wine labels as 'Preservative(220) added'.
More than fruity; pertaining to sugar.
Tannin is a vital ingredient in wines, especially red wines. It comes from the stalks, skins and pips of grapes. Tannins in a young wine produce a bitter, puckering taste on the palate. It also provides structure and balance.
Noticeable acidic taste of natural grape acids, less pleasant in excess.
The climate, geology, aspect, soil type, rainfall and myriad other factors which are believed to influence the quality of a wine via the grapes from which it is fermented.
A wine lacking body to the extent of being watery is called thin.
The natural evaporation through the wood of wine/spirit from ageing in casks or through the cork of bottles is called ullage.
Wine made from a particular grape variety (for example, Cabernet Sauvignon); the opposite of a generic wine (for example, Chablis).
A vertical tasting is a comparative side-by-side tasting of different vintages from the same region.
A description of texture, usually used for wines with lots of glycerine and not much tannin.
In wine, a lively taste or feel.
Wine spoiled by the vinegar bacteria, not pleasant to drink. Vinegar is a major winemaking fault that is easily detected by a sharp sensation on the nose or palate.
The period of picking or harvesting grapes each year, as in 'the vintage'; also the year a wine was made or 'vintaged'.
Viscous is the thick appearance in wine; showing the presence of glycerol.
The botanical name for a vine is Vitis. Vitis vinifera, the grape-bearing vine, is responsible for most of the world's quality wines. The North American Vitis labrusca is a native vine.
A wine spoiled by the presence of acetic acid is said to be volatile, or to have volatile acidity. It is acceptable as a by-product of alcoholic fermentation but only up to a level of 600-800ppm.
A term to combine Herbaceous and tart smells/flavours is weedy.
The fermented juice of grapes becomes wine.
Woody is a smell, which describes the nasty side to oak wood, an unacceptable mouldy sort of flavour that comes from a barrel in poor condition.
The fresh/pleasant smell of fermenting yeast is called yeasty.
The amount of grapes picked (or wines made) from a given area.
Zinfandel is a red grape variety mainly grown in the old world but experiencing a rediscovery in recent times.