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Wine Glossary

Acid Acids of various type are essential to the longevity and enjoyment of wine. Present in all grapes, it gives the liveliness and shape to the flavour and accounts for the crispness and after taste. Too much can spoil the wine leaving a sharp vinegary taste; too little can leave the quality of wine out of balance. Acidity A vital part of the structure of the wine, acidity is the balance of tartnes, sourness and sharpness of the wine.
Aftertaste The flavour that lingers in your mouth after tasting or swallowing the wine, which can be pleasant or unpleasant. The wine is said to have a rich, long or persistant "finish" if the characters remain for more than 20 seconds Alcohol The difference between grape juice and wine, is when ethyl alcohol is produced by the action of yeast on grape sugars during fermentation
Aroma The smell of a wine associated with the grape varieties used to make the wine. Ascorbic acid A natural component found in wine that is added to prevent oxidation occurring.
Asti Spumante Italian sparkling wine Astringent Tannins in wine produce astringency. Tannins are produced from skins and seeds of grapes and oak. The best way of detecting astrinency is the involuntary "puckering" of the mouth as these tannins hit your taste buds.
Austere Indicates a wine that is dry, hard, and acidic, lacking in depth and roundness. Found in young, immature wines, wines that are described as austere are not pleasant to the palate but may soften with age. Balance The assessment that a wine being tasted has its flavour components - sweetness, acidity, fruit, tannins, and alcohol, in harmony. None of the characters dominant.
Barrels Vessels of wood or stainless steel used for the making or maturation of wine. The type of barrel, size of barrel, where the barrel originated, and the age of the barrel, have an effect on the flavor and clarity of the wine. Baume A measuring system for unfermented sugar in grape juice/wine. 1º Baumé = 1% alcohol when wine has fully fermented.
Beerenauslese A German quality rating for very sweet dessert wine. Individual grapes are literally selected for their sweetness, to produce sweet wine. Bitterness Unpleasant characteristic in wine usually detected in the aftertaste. Phenolic substances are the main source of bitterness in wine, and come from wood (oak) and the grape.
Blanc de Blancs A white wine made from white grapes Blanc de Noir White wine made with red and/or black grapes usually pinot noir
Bland Term to describe a wine that lacks character, though not necessarily having any faults. Blend Term used to describe the process of blending two or more wine varieties, wine types, wine lots, or wine vintages to create one balanced and complex wine. Some of Australia's greatest wines, especially reds, are blended wines.
Body A description of the structure, density, fullness, thickness or weight in your mouth determined by its alcoholic strength and extract. The amount of alcohol and tannin in a particular wine has a direct effect on the body of a wine.'Full-bodied' describes a wine with fullness of flavour in the mouth; conversely, 'light-bodied' means the reverse. The more body that a wine has the less like water it tastes. Botrytis A fungus (referred to as noble rot) that attacks grapes and damages the resulting wine. When controlled it causes concentrated sugar in grapes resulting in delightfully sweet wines, of the Sauterne style.
Bottle age The process of maturing wine in a bottle rather than a storage vat "Will improve with bottle age" means the winemaker thinks it will get better if you cellar it for a few years. Bottle fermentation Secondary fermentation that occurs naturally within a bottle of wine. This secondary fermentation process is the method by which true Champagne gets its bubbles (Methode Champenoise).
Bouquet The smell of the finished wine. Develops after time spent in the bottle from the slow oxidation of alcohol and fruit acids into esters and ethers. Breathe Opening a bottle of wine before serving will allow a wine to come into contact with air. This may enhance wine flavours and allow any "off "odours , for example sulphur, to dissipate. This is necessary for young wines as they are very often taut and closed.
Bright Perfectly clear wine with no suspended particles. Bright colour is an important guide to the quality of the wine. Brilliant Term for the clear and bright appearance of a wine free from particles or cloudiness.
Brix A measurment for sugar concentration in grape juice/wine. 1º Baumé = 1% alcohol when wine has fully fermented. See also "Baumé". Brut Very dry (unsweet) wine specifically in sparkling white wine. Some commercial brut styles have an amount of 'liqueur' added to soften the dryness of the palate. Brut is always drier than an "Extra Dry" bottling
Brut Cremant A dry sparkling wine that leaves a full, cream-like impression on the palate. Brut de Brut A winemaking term to describe sparkling wine that is fermented to absolute dryness containing no residual sugar.
Bulk fermentation A method of creating sparkling wines through secondary fermentation in stainless steel tanks rather than in individual bottles as 'methode champenoise' involves. The wine is then bottled under pressure. It is less expensive than 'methode champenoise'and produces quality consistent wine. Canopy The parts of a grapevine that are above ground, particularly the shoots, leaves, and fruit.
Canopy management Viticultural techniques employed to optimize the quantity and quality of grapes. Techniques such as vine shaping, interception of sunlight, disease control and soil quality. Carbon dioxide A colourless, odourless, incombustible gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), produced during the fermenting process of wine which causes the bubbles in sparkling wines.
Carbonic Maceration The fermentation of uncrushed, whole bunches of grapes in an enclosed tank filled with a layer of carbon dioxide. As the weight of the grapes on top crush the grapes on the bottom, the juice is removed and the rest of the fermentation proceeds as per usual. As a result, there is a split between carbonic maceration and normal fermentation. Carbonic maceration produces light, red wines with low tannins, intense colour, and fresh, fruity flavours and aromas (e.g. Beaujolais). The wines lack the structure for long-term aging. Cellar or Cave A place for the storage of wine
Cellarmaster Person in charge of the collection and storage of wine. Chaptalization An illegal practice in Australia, chaptalisation is the process of adding sugar to wine during fermentation to compensate for under ripe grapes and to raise the final alcohol level.
Chewy Describes a full-bodied, unusually thick, heavy, highly tannic wine. A positive quality in many red wines. Clarification Clarification produces a crystal clear wine through fining, filtration and refrigeration.
Clone A grape variety which has been replicated by cutting or grafting, because of specific positive attributes such as flavor, high productivity, disease resistance, and/or better adaptability to environmental conditions. Closed A description for young (typically red) wines that have little of smell. Flavor and aromas are concealed temporarily. It is believed that further aging and exposure to air will bring out the hidden character. Same meaning as "Dumb" or "Closed-in".
Colour The depth of colour of a wine is an important indicator of quality and condition. A good wine should be clear. The more subtle a wine's colour, the more delicate the flavour and body will be. White wines become darker with age, often a hint of amber; while red wines begin to fade and often assume a tawny, brick-red shade. Complexity A complex wine is one with multiple layers and nuances of bouquet and flavour. Highly characteristic of fine wine.
Corked A wine whose quality has been contaminated with a penicillin infection inside the cork or by chemicals used in the processing of the cork. The infection causes the wine to be unpleasantly musty, corky, and moldy. About 3% of wines worldwide are affected. Crisp A complimentary term used to describe a fresh, brisk, young white wine, balanced with refreshing acidity.
Crust Deposit adhering to the inside surface of bottles of red wine and port. Consists mainly of pigment and tartrate crystals, it is harmless and can be removed by decanting or straining. Cuvé French word for "vat”.
Cuvée French refer to a wine as Cuvée if it is a specific blend, typically derived from different varietals/vintages. These wines are thought of as high quality and are often, a sparkling wine. (3) Refers to the first crushing of the grapes during wine production. Decant Transfer of wine from the bottle into another container, usually a glass decanter. Decanting exposes wine to air so it can breathe and allow you to leave any suspended particles in the bottle.
Delicate Describes wine that is mild, light in fragrance, flavor, and body but is still attractive. Desirable in riesling, semillon or pinot noir. Deposit Sediment that is found in the bottom of the bottle
Depth Characteristic of a premium wine that demonstrates an excellent concentration of aromas and flavours. Downy mildew A fungal disease, also known as "peronospera", that attacks multiple parts of the vine, including the flowers and the fruit. Associated with humidity and a lack of air circulation, "Downy mildew" produces a white fuzzy growth on the underside of the leaves and can be controlled by applying copper sulfate sprays or various forms of sulfur.
Dry Wines with little or no sugar. All the sugar has been converted to alcohol during fermentation. When used in winetasting terms, it describes the absence of residual sugar (sweetness) in a wine that leads to a 'dry' finish. Dumb A wine temporarily lacking nose or flavour on the palate. It is believed further aging and exposure to air will bring out the hidden characters.
Earthy Term meaning that the wine has the taste or odour of soil. Not unpleasant in moderation, too much can make a wine coarse. Elegance A complimentary term for a wine with distinguished quality; it is balanced, graceful, and refined
Fat Positive description of a fleshy wine. Although “fat” wines typically lack elegance, “fat” wine is highly valued by connoisseurs of sweet dessert wines. Fermentation Process of converting grape sugar into alcohol by yeast
Filtration The use of various equipment to remove impurities, solids and other matter in wine. Fining Way of clarifying young wine before it is bottled. Agents, such as activated carbon, activated charcoal, bentonite, casein, egg whites, gelatine, are added to wine, and capture suspended particles by absorption or coagulation, causing them to settle to the bottom of the container. Once the particles sink, the wine can be racked or filtered to separate it from this sediment.
Finish The end taste that remains in your mouth after wine has been spat out, or swallowed. Also known as the “aftertaste”, the “finish” is part of a wine’s evaluation. A distinctive, lingering or long finish is the ideal. A wine with a weak or non-existent finish is considered wanting. Firm Refers to a taste sensation caused by tannins, usually noticeable at the back of the mouth.
Flabby Means the wine has unpleasant voluptuous flavours on the back of the palate. Lacks acidity and/or structure. High in glycerine character; soft and broard. Flavour The taste of wine.
Flinty Term applied to dry, austere, white wines. The "flint" is a result of grapes grown in minerally soils, such as limestone, Flor A yeast which grows on the surface of a wine and giving it a "nutty" character, used in the production of sherry.
Flowery An attractive scent reminiscent of flowers, such as violets, citrus blossoms, or roses. This impression can also be sensed on the palate. Floral and fragrant characteristics are likely to be found in white wines like Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Fortified A wine that has been blended with brandy or other spirits. This increases the amount of alcohol and preserves the wine. Fortified wines include vermouths, ports, sherries, muscats, and tokays.
Free run The juice released from the grape berries when they are first crushed at the winery, before preserving. Free-run juice is of a higher quality than pressed juice as it contains less tannin from skin, stalk or seed material. Used for making the best whites. Glycerol A by-product of fermentation, responsible for the sweet taste experienced on the tongue tip, which brings a sense of fullness to the wine.
Grafting The technique of securing a genetically compatible section of one wine grape variety into another. Hard A wine that has more tannin or acid than fruit flavour. Typically a young wine which has not fully matured so excessive tannins overpower and mask the underlying flavors and qualities that may be present.
Heavy A wine with too much alcohol and too little acidity for the fruit and sugar levels. Herbaceous Term for wines that taste and smell of fresh grass, hay, and/or herbs such as basil, oregano, and rosemary.
Hermitage A grape varietal used in the production of light red wines, Shiraz the most well known Hollow Varieties of wine with too much alcohol and not enough fruit, that are lacking in taste sensation between the attack and finish of the wine.
Hybrid A grape varietyresulting from cross breeding of different species or genuses. Inert gas A gas that does not react when in contact with juice or wine. Carbon Dioxide or Nitrogen is used to fill remaining space in a vessel and/or wine bottle to avoid oxidation.
Inky An offensive metallic flavour usually caused by tannins coming in contact with iron. Inky also indicates the deep colour of some red wines. Lactic acid An acid character produced from Malolactic fermentation evident on the palate of some wines.
Lees Deposits in the cask or bottle, comprised of grape skins, pulp, and yeast that accumulate during fermentation. In most cases this sediment is separated from the wine through racking. At times, particularly in neutral white wines, the lees are stirred with the wine or the wine is exposed to the lees for longer periods to generate flavor and stabilize the wine. Lean A thin wine lacking in fruit but not acid.
Legs x Refers to the viscous columns of wine that stream down the inside surface of a glass after swirling. Legs generally indicate a wine that is rich, full-bodied and high in alcohol content. Liqueur d' expedition The sweetening agent added to sparkling wine bottles, replacing wine lost by expelling the plug of yeast from the bottle. The final stylet will range from a dry “brut” to a sweet sparkling wine.
Luscious A term applied to sweet wines with rich, soft, velvety, sweet and fruity flavours. Malic acid An acid in wine which adds a hard or sharp taste to wine. High concentrations of malic acid are undesirable. It is reduced through intentional malolactic fermentation.
Malolactic fermentation A secondary fermentation occurring in the barrel, where bacteria converts malic acid into lactic acid and carbon dioxide (alcohol is not produced).. Wines that undergo this process become softer and smoother. The process adds complexity to Chardonnay and smoothness to reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Maturity Aged wine with a mellow flavour/colour and ready to be consumed.
Meaty “Meaty” wine is full-bodied, firm in structure, and considered “chewable”. Medals X 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, 1
Méthode Champenoise The authentic French method for making sparkling wines after secondary fermentation in the bottle. This process is the method by which true Champagne gets its bubbles. Must Grape juice, skins and seeds after the initial crushing process that will be fermented into wine.
Noble Rot "BOTRYTIS CINEREA", a fungus which attacks grapes and affects the resulting wine. When controlled "Botrytis Cinerea" causes the grape to shrivel, concentrate and intensify both sugar and flavour, producing delicious sweet wines Oak The flavor/aroma of wine, particularly red wine, enhanced from contact with oak storage barrels. Oak is slightly porous, and wines fermented and/or stored in oak barrels (from the wood genus quercus) acquire flavours and tannins from the wood.
Oenology The science or study of wine and winemaking. Oxidation Process by which the presence of oxygen causes wine to decompose. Oxidised wines take on a dry, slightly bitter characteristic, and tend to turn a brownish colour, tasting more like a beverage with vinegar overtones the longer it is kept stored. Oxidation is usually the result of a failed bottle closure, shoddy winemaking or poor storage conditions.
Perfumed Typically a white wine term, a perfumed wine has a delightful bouquet, usually of a slightly musky sort Peppery A term reserved solely for young spicy red wine, “Peppery” wine has a sharp peppery/cinnamon/anise character on the nose and palate.
pH A measure of the concentration of acidity. pH ranges from 1 to 14. A pH greater than 7 represents alkalinity, 7 denotes neutrality, and less than 7 indicates acidity. The lower the number, the higher the acidity. Wines are generally between pH 3 - 4. Phenolics A group of compounds found in the skins and seeds of the grape. These compounds are present inl wine in small amounts, and include anthocyans, tannins and various flavor components. Red wines contain more phenolics because of the extended contact with skins, seeds and, have longer oak barrel ageing. Evidence suggests that red wine offesr greater protection against heart disease than white wine due to higher concentration of phenolics.
Phylloxera A vine disease caused by a pest attacking the roots of the vine, leaving it without any means of taking up the water or nutrients needed to survive. All major grape growing regions in the world have been infected with Phylloxera. The only known answer to it is to replant grapevines on resitant rootstocks. Powdery mildew A fungal disease that attacks multiple parts of the vine, including the fruit, leaves, and shoots. Powdery mildew can negatively affect the smell, taste and colour of wines made from infected grapes. Growers control mildew by applying copper sulfate sprays or various forms of sulfur.
Pressing The process of pressing more juice out of grape skins after the initial free run juice is pumped away. This is higher in tannins and acids, but can be used to give lesser wines more flavour. Proof A term used to indicate the amount of alcohol in liquor. The poof is exactly twice the amount of the percentage of alcohol contained in the liquor. "90 proof" would contain 45 percent alcohol.
Pruning "Pruning" refers to the cutting back of the grape vine during the dormant season. The practice of pruning determines the yield, the strength of the vines, the quality of the grapes, and makes it easier to harvest the grapes. Generally, low-yielding vines tend to produce high-quality grapes, and subsequently more concentrated wine. Pulp "Pulp" is the flesh of the grape, and contains water, sugar, and acid that results in grape juice. The pulp is always dull gray, regardless of the skin color of the grape. It is in the skin of the grape where, in the case of red wines, tannin and the colouring agents are found.
Racking Transfering wine from one cask to another. This process of siphoning off the clear juice from the sediment helps to avoid reduction from exposure to oxygen. Heavy red wines may be racked 3 or four times. Lighter reds and whites may be racked only once or twice. Remuage The practice of turning and inverting bottles of sparkling wine until yeast lees has accumulated to the neck of the bottle fand is then removed.
Residual sugar The measure of unfermented grape sugar that contributes to the sweetness of wine after the fermentation process is complete. This sugar is measured in grams per litre (g/l) or by percent. Sugar level less than, or equal to, 2 g/l or 2% is more or less impalpable. Sugar level greater than or equal to 25 g/l or 2.5% residual sugar is distinguishably sweet, although acidity can counterbalance some of the sweetness. Round Describes a smooth, balanced wine with developed flavor, without other characters in excess.
Scion A grape varietal grafted to a rootstock Sharp Acid taste on the palate because acid is out of balance or too strong. Not totally unpleasant, can also be described has having a crisp or hard quality.
Skin The essential part of red wine making as it contains the pigments, flavonoids, and tannins. Different grape varieties have different skin characteristics. Some are thick with a fair amount of tannin such as Cabernet Sauvignon, which yields dark, tannic wines. Others, such as Nebbiolo have thin skins and even more tannin, yielding lighter coloured wines that are heavy in their youth. Others still, such as Pinot Noir, have thin skins and low tannins, making for crisp, fruity wines that are more approachable when young. Skin contact The step between crushing and fermentation of continually and deliberately bringing the juice in contact with the grape skins to extract as many flavor components as possible.
Short wine that does not linger on the palate after consuming Soft No harsh sensation on the palate the result of the wine's lower acidity and/or tannin levels. A wine well-balanced, fruity, mellow and pleasant.
Solera system A system of producing of fortified wines by rotating wine through casks. The solera system is based on the maturity levels of several wines, ranging in tiers from the oldest to the most recently produced. It consists of drawing off one quarter to one third of the oldest wine for bottling. The wine that was drawn off is replaced with wine from the next oldest tier, which is replaced with a younger wine from the next level, and so on up through the levels of the solera. Sommelier A person who is typically employed in a restaurant, capable of providing indepth knowledge to staff and customers regarding different types of wine, their use, pairing with food, and general background information. A well trained Semmelier will add to the dining experience, and be charged with maintaining the wine cellar, preparing the wine list, and serving the wine.
Sorbic acid Sorbic acid added to the finished wine to inhibit yeasts and moulds to prevent spoilage while the wine is maturing. It often producse an unpleasant and undesirable odor. Stabilisation A series of procedures to prevent wine from deteriorating or developing a fault in the bottle. 'Heat stabilisation' ensures a wine does not develop a haziness or cloudiness when stored at warm temperatures. It's usually accomplished by fining with an agent such as bentonite just prior to bottling. Fining collects the minute particles that cause cloudiness and settles them to the bottom of the storage vessel. The wine is then racked to separate the clear wine from the sediment. 'Cold stabilisation' is the method of removing tartrates by storing wine at a very low temperature for up to three weeks. The flavourless tartrates, which are removed for aesthetic purposes, fall to the bottom at such cool temperatures, leaving the wine clear.
Stelvin The Stelvin capsule, an alternative to cork, is made up of a screw cap, a long printable skirt and a liner specifically designed for contact with wine. Stelvin is neutral for taste and aroma so doesn't contaminate the wine Sulphur dioxide (SO2) A colourless, water-soluble, non-flammable gas used to preserve, remove impurities, and reduce oxidation in wine.
Sweet Term that applies to the presence of residual sugar and/or glycerin in a wine. Certain components, such as oakiness, contributes a sweet vanilla essence, or intense fruitiness, and can give wine a seemingly sweet smell. Winetasters may use the term "sweet" for both flavour and bouquet. Tannin A vital ingredient and preservative in wines, especially red wines. Found in the seed, skins, and stems of grapes, they are important in the production of good red wines because they provide flavour, structure and texture and, because of their antioxidant traits, contribute to long and graceful ageing. Tannins when the wine is young give that bitter, puckering tast on the palate, and are detectable by a dry, sensation in the mouth and back of the throat. A balanced wine will have soft tannins and give a full-mouth feel.
Tart Taste of acidity Tartrates Harmless crystals that form in bottles of red and white wines from tartric acid naturally present in wine.
Terroir A term for 'soil', terroir refers to the set of geographic factors, such as soil composition, altitude, topography, position relative to the sun, sunlight hours and water drainage, that combine to create a unique taste and wine quality representative of a particular location. Thin A winetasting term for wine that is lacking in taste, body, and depth
Toasty The appealing smell of toasted bread, which is typically associated with dry white wines. This characteristic is the result of the wine being stored in oak barrels that have charred (or toasted) interiors. Triage The process of sorting grapes, for health and quality.
Ullage The space between the top of the wine and the bottom of the container. The space is minimized to reduce oxidation. If excessive, the wine is "ullaged". Varietal Wine made from a single grape variety. The flavor and characteristics of the wine are strongly influenced by the particular grape used.
Vegetal Wines with undertones of earth and yeast (refer to “grassy”), reminiscent of fresh or cooked vegetables. If the characteristic is too pronounced, it can be considered unpleasant and not a desirable trait. Velvety Wines that have rich flavour and a smooth, soft texture. Usually has lots of glycerine and not much tannin.
Vertical Tasting Tasting one wine of different years. The purpose of "vertical tasting" is identifying traits that are present in the same wine year after year. Vigneron Vine grower
Vigour The growth rate of a particular vine. Vigorous Wines that are full-bodied, lively, and youthful. Sometimes a bad thing.
Vin French word for "Wine". Vinegar Wine spoiled by wine bacteria - deliberately or otherwise, easily detected by a sharp, unpleasant sensation on the nose or palate Unfit for consumption and a major winemaking fault.
Vinosity Wine-tasting term pertaining to the alcoholic strength of a wine and its grape character. Vintage The year of the actual grape harvest and the wine made from those grapes. In Australia, wine must contain at least 85% of grapes from the year stated in order to carry a vintage date on the label.
Vintner Winemaker, wine producer or winery proprietor Viscous Rich, concentrated appearance in wine, showing the presence of glycerol. Viscosity leaves an impression of texture on the palate and is observed visually by distinct legs on the sides of the glass.
Viticulture The study, science and cultivation of grapevines for wine making. Vitis The botanical name for the vine. Vitis vinifera, the grape-bearing vine, is responsible for most of the world's quality wines.
Volatile A wine spoiled by the presence of acetic acid, a powerful, harsh attack on the palate. In excess it gives wine a slightly sour, vinegary edge Wine An alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of grapes.
Woody Strong bouquet of wood (oak) in wine, that has been aged too long in a wooden container and has absorbed numerous and undesirable wood flavors. Yeast Single cell organisms responsible for conversion of sugar into aclohol, a process necessary for the fermentation of grape juice into wine.
Yield The amount of grapes picked (or wines made) from a given area. Yield The amount of grapes picked (or wines made) from a given area.