A brief guide with some of the most common terms in the world of wine to help you choose the right product or just to understand better what people are talking about when the main topic is WINE.

A

 The tart or sour sensation felt on the sides of your tongue. Acidity plays a major role in a wine’s structure by balancing out the fruit and it’s the quality of wine that gives it its crispiness and vitality. A proper balance of acidity must be struck with the other elements of a wine, or else the wine may be said to be too sharp( high levels of acidity), or too flat ( low levels of acidity) . Light crisp whites like Sauvignon Blanc are great examples of good acidity.
A tasting term for the taste left on the palate after wine has been swallowed.
Phenolic pigments that give red wine its colour.
A term used often to refer to the harshness in the taste of a wine. It is usually related to the bitterness and strong amount of tannins in a red wine and the acidity in a white wine. An astringent wine will show mouth-puckering dryness.
A wine that seems tight, tough, un-giving and is lacking fruit and richness. A more reserved than opulent style, possibly because the wine is young.
Austria is known for their dry white wines. The Grüner Veltliner grape is king, but they also produce some sweet desert and red wines.
Wine is produced in every state of Australia, but vineyard concentration is mainly on the coasts in the southern, cooler parts of the country. The wine regions in each state produce different wine varieties and styles due to drastic climatic differences. Major Australian varieties include Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Semillon, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Argentina is South America’s #1 wine producing country and their Malbec leads the pack in popularity. However, the vast majority of the wine is kept in the country – only about 10-15% is exported for the rest of the world to enjoy. Mendoza is Argentina’s largest and most well-known growing region with vineyards sitting in the foothills of the Andes.
The attack of a wine is the inital impression it makes on your palate after your first sip.
Short for appellation d’origine contrôlée – which means “controlled designation of origin” in French. An AOC is a legislative system that indicates where the grapes were grown, which varietals are in the bottle, quality and (generally) the style of a wine. For example, Burgundy’s regional AOC Bourgogne Blanc denotes that the wine came from one of the 300+ parishes in the region and that it will be a dry white wine made from Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris. Each AOC determines their own rules that will qualify a wine to be stamped with their approval.

B

Balance happens when all the components of the wine – acidity alcohol, tannins fruit – are mixed together to achieve a harmonious, well rounded wine. It’s a huge treat to drink well-balanced wines. Ask yourself if any one component is dominating a wine. A balance between fruit and acidity is what you are looking for.
A big wine is one with intense flavor. This can mean either massive fruit flavors or that it has big tannins (high alcohol content). When you take a sip, the taste takes over all corners of your mouth.
Sparkling wines and Champagnes are categorized as Extra Brut, Brut, Extra dry Sec or Demi-sec depending on their sugar levels. Extra Brut sparkling wine has the least amount of sugar, followed by Brut, Extra dry, and Demi-sec having the most sugar. These classifications can be somewhat confusing, since Brut actually means “dry” in French, but the classification of an Extra dry sparkling wine actually has more sugar than an Extra Brut sparkling wine. Brut is the most common style of bubbly offering a typically crisp dry palate taste.
Baked wine refers to the certain fruit qualities of the wine such as baked apples or a berry crumble.
The impression of the liquid’s weight or thickness on your palate. A wine’s body is usually described as light, medium, or full-bodied.
Fresh ripe, zesty, lively young wines with vivid, focused flavors. Bright wines are ones with a big pop of energy in their taste. They have more acidity and the flavors really come alive in your mouth.
A wine’s bouquet means something different than its aroma. The term “aroma” refers to the scents presented by the wine’s grape – like the scent of peach for a Riesling, or strawberry for a Pinot Noir. The term “bouquet” is used to talk about scents that emerge from the winemaking winemaking process. For example, scents of vanilla and spice from a wine that has been aged in oak
A block describes the different plots of land on a vineyard used to separate different grape varieties, variations in growing conditions, or both.
Most people define boutique wine as “small production”, “artisanal” or even “cult”. Boutique is a subjective term. For some, it could mean a wine production of only a couple hundred cases, and for others, a couple thousand. For us, it means unique, expertly curated, small-lot wines that you are definitely not going to find at your average grocery store.
Brix is a scale of measurement used to determine the amount of sugar in wine. It’s a key indicator of when to pick the grapes. It can be measured using a refractometer.

C

A wine that is just not giving up enough on the nose or palate, but you get the impression of its potential. Sometimes a young wine needs time for it’s flavors to develop, and if it is ‘closed’ it’s still too underdeveloped to drink. Other wines, such as aromatic or sweet wines, can go through a “closed” period when they temporarily become less interesting.
A wine that shows a myriad of different flavors rather than simply being one dimensional – just fruity or just dry – as its major attribute. If adjectives are tattling off your tongue after a first sip, then it’s usually safe to say you have a complex wine in your hand.
A well oaked California Chardonnay is the perfect example of creaminess. ‘Creamy’ can be used to describe a texture flavor or combination of the two. A warm climate and generous use of oak are two things that contribute to a creamy wine.
Indicates a high level of acidity and is used to describe lighter, more fresh styles of white wines.
Champagne is the notorious example of sparkling wine, but it’s incorrect to call all sparkling wine ‘Champagne’. Sparkling wines are made all over the world and labeled according to the region and methods used to produce a bottle, but to be classified as Champagne, a wine must be produced in the Champagne region of France using the méthod champenoise for carbonation.
California really gained popularity as a wine producing region after the Judgement of Paris wine competition of 1976, where the American wines won in both the red and white categories. Today, California accounts for nearly 90 percent of the nation’s wine production with more than 1,200 wineries in the state. Regarding tastes, in general California wines tend to be less dry and more fruit-forward than European varietals.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a red wine with flavor varieties ranging from easy drinking fruit-forward styles to intensely big and densely flavored wines. Often referred to a the “King of Red Wine Grapes,” it originated in Bordeaux but has since taken a substantial foothold in California’s Napa Valley. Usually oaked, you’ll see it used both in bold, red blends or bottled on its own.
Corked wine is one that has become contaminated with cork taint, caused by using corks infected with the bacteria TCA. If a winery bottles with infected corks, the wine’s fruit becomes dull and tainted. While unpleasant to drink, cork taint is not in any way harmful to humans. Corked wines smell and taste of mildew or wet or rotten cardboard.
You’ll sometimes see this word on a wine’s label. A cuvée usually means the bottle contains a mix of different grapes – either different varietals, grapes from different vineyards, grapes from different vintages, or even grapes from separate vineyard plots. But if you see cuvée on a Champagne bottle, it means the wine came from the first press (and best) juice.

D

This term is potentially misleading as it’s often confused and used when talking about tannic wine. What is dry to one person may not taste dry to another, but in general, dryness refers to how much residual sugar is left after fermentation.
A delicate wine is one with a range of subtle flavors, but nothing overtly bold. Tannins and acidity will be undetectable, eliminating the harsh elements of the wine and leaving only hints of fruit and alcohol. A term typically used for red wines. Pinot Noirs can often be described as delicate.
Diurnal shift is a fancy term that describes the variation in temperature from the highs during the day to the lows at night. This is a big deal for wine regions at high altitudes because they experience the most dramatic temperature swings. Big temperature variations affect the grapes because their exposure to sunlight increases the ripening qualities in the wine (i.e. more sugar), while the sudden drop in temperature at night preserves the balance of natural acids in the grape (i.e. lots of acidity in the wine).
A wine with rustic flavors usually caused by the wine’s tannins It can also refer to outdoorsy, earthy flavors in a wine. This is typically a term used to describe red wine.
To decant a wine means to move it from the bottle into another vessel. Decating is great for filtering older wines, aerating young wines, or just making the wine look pretty.
The abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, or “controlled place name.” This is Italy’s designation for wine whose name, origin of grapes, grape varieties and other important factors are regulated by law. It is also the abbreviation for Portugal’s highest wine category, which has the same meaning in that country.
The abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, or controlled and guaranteed place name, which is the category for the highest-ranking wine in Italy.

E

Earthy wine has aromas or flavors that seem to come straight from the earth (mushrooms, soil, herbs, leaves, etc.).
A fine wine that emphasizes lighter flavors, silky textures, and subtle aromas rather than strength and intensity of fruit. Think delicate and complex like a special lady of yours.
Basically, these wines are smooth and go down the hatch nicely. This term can be biased of course, depending on a person’s preference for flavor, but in winespeak ‘easy to drink’ generally means a balanced wine with soft tannins

F

A term reserved for big and juicy wines that aren’t afraid to pile on gobs of flavor and texture They’re rich buttery and oily in texture This term is mostly used to describe the texture of a wine.
The finish is the final part of tasting a wine. Wine can continue to evolve in your mouth for a few seconds or even many minutes after you swallow, depending its quality. We use “long” and “short” to describe the length of a finish.
A wine with some backbone! Firmness describes a wine with serious structure (acid/tannin). This describes any wine that practically forces you into submission.
A description used for a wine that is particularly meaty with rich texture.
A forward wine is one that hits you up front with flavor and doesn’t hold anything back. You’ll often hear this term used when describing a wine as “fruit forward” – that it has a strong fruit flavors.
Fresh can mean different things to different people, but generally it means herbaceous zesty, and bright A wine that is fresh will have flavors of herbs, lemon, and minerality
Fermentation is how we make wine out of grapes. During the fermentation process, sugar and yeast react to create carbon dioxide and ethanol (or alcohol).

G

A hearty red grape popular in southern France and Spain. Its unmistakable candied fruit roll-up and cinnamon flavor is what gives Grenache away to expert blind tasters. It’s also a component of some of the most expensive wine in the world.
The garage-style wine movement was born from a group of innovative Bordeaux winemakers (known as garagistes) who wanted to break away from the region’s traditional production techniques which required a long aging time. Garage-style winemaking focuses on developing bolder, fruitier wines, often with a higher alcohol content, that can be enjoyed right away.
A grippy wine holds to the side of your mouth, so you can feel the structure in the wine. It is a positive descriptor of the wine and can be used to describe a wine with a long finish that is tannic.

H

A term usually used to describe secondary flavors in a wine when it has notes basil, oregano, rosemary, or any other type of herb.

I

Yeast is an essential component of turning grapes into wine. Indigenous yeast is a term used to describe a natural winemaking process. It is the yeast that has not be introduced or altered during fermentation.
Literally hundreds of varieties of wine are produced annually in Italy – the country has over 1 million vineyards. They have successfully planted the vast majority of dominant international grape varietals, but their domestic vines are what have made Italian wines world renown for centuries.
Abbreviation for “Indicazione Geografica Tipica“, the lowest-ranking of the three categories of Italian wine regulated by Italian law.

 

J

A tasting term used to describe a wine that has apparent aromas and flavors of fresh fruit. Jammy wines are usually darker, have more sugar, structure in your mouth, and fruit is a major component of their taste.

K

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L

 Streamlined wines that lack generosity and fatness but can still be enjoyable and pleasant. Also the sense of acidity in the wine that lacks a perception of fruit.
 Wine sediment that occurs during and after fermentation, and consists of dead yeast, grape seeds, and other solids. Wine is separated from the lees by racking.
The tracks of liquid that cling to the sides of a glass after the contents have been swirled. Often said to be related to the alcohol or glycerol content of a wine. Also called tears
A wine’s body refers to the perceived weight of the wine in the mouth. Full-bodied wines are big and powerful. In contrast, light-bodied wines are more delicate on your palate.

M

 The contact of grape skins with the must during fermentation, extracting phenolic compounds including tannins, anthocyanins, and aroma.
A tasting term for the feel and taste of a wine when held in the mouth, it refers to the flavor sensation you get between the initial hit in your mouth and the point when you swallow. This is the part of tasting where the wine coats your taste buds and you notice the structure of the wine. To really get a feel of a mid-palate sensation, you’ll need to slow down your sip and take a moment to slosh the wine around in your mouth.
Hard to define, yet it’s used widely in wine descriptions. We refer to minerality as the flavors and aromas of earth in a wine – things like stone, slate, or wet rocks. These notes in a wine are a good representation of it’s origin.
 A wine’s body is used to describe the general weight, or overall feel of a wine in your mouth. Full-bodied wines are big and powerful, light-bodied wines are more delicate and medium-bodied wines fall somewhere in between.
 Also known as malo or MLF, a secondary fermentation in wines by lactic acid bacteria during which tart tasting malic acid is converted to softer tasting lactic acid.
The controlled exposure of wine to small amounts of oxygen in the attempt to reduce the length of time required for maturation.
Unfermented grape juice, including pips, skins and stalks. Must weight is the level of fermentable sugars in the must and the resultant alcohol content if all the sugar was converted to ethanol.

 

 

N

 Wines produced outside of the traditional wine growing areas of Europe and North Africa, such as Australia, Argentina and the United States. Particularly vivid and modern styles of winemaking have emerged from these countries and “New World” wines tend to show more fruit flavors and bigger body.
  Another name for the Botrytis cinerea mould that can pierce grape skins causing dehydration. The resulting grapes produce a highly prized sweet wine, generally dessert wine.
 The aroma, smell or bouquet of a wine. A wine’s aroma can be floral, citrus, fruity, earthy or any number of scents depending on the grape variety, the techniques used in the winemaking process, and the wine’s storage conditions (i.e. if the wine was aged in oak barrels or not).

O

 Wines produced inside of the traditional wine growing areas of Europe and North Africa. Old world wines tend to be more balanced between earth and fruit.
Producing organic wine means using grapes that were grown without using any chemical fertilizers, pesticides, preservatives, or other man-made ingredients. It takes into account the natural environment and providing a great climate for grapes to grow naturally.
 A wine that has the barest hint of sweetness; a slightly sweet wine in which the residual sugar is barely perceptible.
Oak chips are small pieces of oak wood used in place of oak barrels in fermenting and/or ageing wine. An oaky wine is a wine with a noticeable perception of the effects of oak. This can include the sense of vanilla, sweet spices like nutmeg, a creamy body and a smoky or toasted flavor.
Wine produced from vines that are notably old. To be considered “old” a vine needs to be around 50 years of age. The older the vine, the deeper its roots. Deep roots create deeply concentrated fruit, which makes for delicious wine.

P

Perfumed wines are extremely aromatic with floral notes. Can be applicable to a white or red wine.
 The indentation found in the base of a wine bottle. Punt depth is often thought to be related to wine quality, with better quality wines having a deeper punt.
 The skins, stalks, and seeds that remain after making wine. Also called marc.
 A microscopic underground insect that kills grape vines by attacking their roots. 
 An acronym for “potential hydrogen” a measure of acidity. The lower the pH, the higher the acidity.
A wine containing a high concentration of trimethyldihydronaphthalene, whose scent is evocative of the odour of petrol, kerosene or paraffin. A petrolly character is considered a highly desirable characteristic in mature Rieslings

 

Q

  A designation of best quality German wines that must conform to specific requirements of origin and composition.

 

R

 Also known as RS, the level of sugar that remains unfermented in a wine. See also sweetness of wine.
 A wine that is generous in depth and breadth of flavor. Also a sense of sweetness in the wine that is not excessive.
An older, mature wine with pronounced flavors. Full-bodied, sturdy, and sometimes even a little rustic, these wines are usually red.
 Round is the impression a wine gives you in the mouth. A wine that has a good sense of body that is not overly tannic, is smooth, soft and even on all sides. These wines are easy to drink.
A term given to wine to indicate that it is of higher quality than usual.
The process of drawing wine off the sediment, such as lees, after fermentation and moving it into another vessel.
 Pink wines that are produced from the shortened contact of red wine juice with its skins, reducing the red colour of the wine. These wines can also be made by blending a small amount of red wine with white wine.
Wine blends can offer more complexity that single varietal wines as winemakers can enhance a wine’s qualities with the different flavors. Some common red blends are: Super Tuscans (made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Petite Verdot). In Sardinia we can find blends made from the indigenous vine varieties Cannonau, Carignano, Pascale, Monica, Sangue di Cristo.
 

S

 Smooth-textured wine that feels almost silky or satiny in the mouth.
A wine with aromas and flavors reminiscent of various spices such as black pepper and cinnamon. While this can be a characteristic of the grape varietal, many spicy notes are imparted from oak influences.
Lean mean, and green. Wines that are very dry and not at all fruity.
Indicates a red wine that is soft, round lush and velvety in texture It glides across your tongue. A wine that is not overly tannic.
Most commonly the term is used to refer to the continuation of fermentation in a second vessel – e.g. moving the wine from a stainless steel tank to an oak barrel.
Shiraz or Syrah is a variety of grape used to make red wine. With moderate climates tending to produce medium to full-bodied wines with medium-plus to high levels of tannins and flavors of blackberry, mint and black pepper notes. In hot climates, Syrah is more consistently full-bodied with softer tannin, jammier fruit and spice notes of liquorice, anise and earthy leather. In many regions the acidity and tannin levels of Syrah allows the wines produced from the grape to have favorable aging potential.
Effervescent wine containing significant levels of carbon dioxide.
Wine that is not sparkling wine.
Compounds (typically: potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite) which are added to wine to prevent oxidation and microbial spoilage.
A substance used in winemaking as a preservative.
Defined by the level of residual sugar in the final liquid after the fermentation has ceased. However, how sweet the wine will actually taste is also controlled by factors such as the acidity and alcohol levels, the amount of tannin present, and whether the wine is sparkling.
A wine’s structure is made up of four components: acidity tannins sugar and alcohol. A wine with all of these in balance has good structure – making it great for both aging and pairing with food.

 

T

 Polyphenolic compounds that give wine a bitter, dry, or puckery feeling in the mouth. A wine showing a lot of tannin can be harsh and slightly unyielding.
 French for “soil“, the physical and geographical characteristics of a particular vineyard site that give the resultant wine its unique properties.
 A tasting term for the mouthfeel of wine on the palate. The texture of a wine is often compared to fabrics. Wine can taste smooth like silk, soft like velvet, or rough like wool.
 A tasting term describing a wine high in acidity. Often displayed by young, unripe wines.
The ability of a wine to clearly portray all unique aspects of its flavor-fruit, floral, and mineral notes. The opposite would be a wine were are flavors are diffused and throughly integrated.
 A wine tasting term used to describe how much a wine expresses the typical characteristics of the varietal.

 

 

U

 Also known as headspace, the unfilled space in a wine bottle, barrel, or tank.
Also known as unwooded, refers to wines that have been matured without contact with wood/oak such as in aging barrels and instead, usually a stainless steal vessel. One of the main reasons winemakers are now producing wine without the oak flavor is consumer demand for a lighter, fruitier white wine without all of the overwhelming flavors created by oak barrels. Unoaked wine is said to emphasize the natural flavors of the grapes, along with elements of the soil in which they grew.

V

 A varietal wine is a wine made primarily from a single named grape variety, and which typically displays the name of that variety on the wine label. The term is frequently misused in place of vine variety; the term variety refers to the vine or grape while varietal refers to the wine produced by a variety.
 Viscosity describes the “thickness” of a wine on your palate. The higher a wine’s levels of sugar and alcohol, the higher the wine’s viscosity will be. A wine that is full in body and has a sense of viscosity is described as “fat”.  A wine with too much fat that is not balanced by acidity is said to be “flabby” or “blowzy”
The year in which a particular wine’s grapes were harvested. When a vintage year is indicated on a label, it signifies that all the grapes used to make the wine in the bottle were harvested in that year.
 The level of acetic acid present within a wine.
The process of making grape juice into wine.
 In a vertical tasting, different vintages of the same wine type from the same winery are tasted. This emphasizes differences between various vintages. In a horizontal tasting, the wines are all from the same vintage but are from different wineries. Keeping wine variety or type and wine region the same helps emphasize differences in winery styles, but also in terroirs of origin.

W

Wine that has been made from two or more white grapes. Blends allow a winemaker to bring together a mosaic of different flavors to create a unique taste.
The sensory evaluation of wine, encompassing more than taste, but also mouthfeel, aroma, and colour, with a constantly evolving specialized terminology to describe the range of perceived flavors, aromas and general characteristics of a wine..

 

X

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Y

 Wine that is not matured and usually bottled and sold within a year of its vintage.
A microscopic unicellular fungi responsible for the conversion of the sugar in the grapes into alcohol and carbon dioxide during fermentation. Native yeast (or indigenous) is naturally occurring in the grapes.  This process is known as alcoholic fermentation, and it is essential to turn grape juice into wine.

Z

 Zinfandel (also known as Primitivo) is a variety of black-skinned wine grape. The variety is grown in over 10 percent of California vineyards. There is a Primitivo variety traditionally grown in Apulia (the “heel” of Italy), where it was introduced in the 18th century.
 The science of the biochemical processes involved in fermentation.

 

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Wine Tasting - Tour of Sardinia

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