The A to Z of wine terms
Have you ever been surrounded by wine aficionados discussing the subtle “legs” of a wine or the mysterious “malolactic fermentation” in their favourite bottle? Eager to become an expert on wine terms yourself? Elevate your wine vocabulary with the A to Z of wine below.
Wine varietals from grape to glass
Embarking on a wine journey starts with understanding the grapes themselves. Delve into the distinct personalities of various grape types that shape our beloved bottles. With each sip, you’re not only tasting wine but exploring and experiencing each varietal’s story.
Cabernet Sauvignon: Often recognised by its deep red hue, this varietal brings forward bold flavours of dark fruits and often carries hints of green pepper.
Cava: Spain’s sparkling gem, made using the traditional method but with native grapes.
Champagne: From the Champagne region in France, this bubbly is rich, with flavours ranging from almonds to toast.
Chardonnay: This white grape can taste buttery or tropical or even have a vanilla note, depending on where it’s grown and how it’s made.
Grenache: A grape full of spicy, berry-rich flavours, often used in blends, especially in Spain and France.
Merlot: Smooth and velvety, with flavours of plum, black cherry, and hints of chocolate.
Nebbiolo: A star from Italy’s Piedmont region, it can be robust, offering flavours of cherries, roses, and tar.
Pinot Grigio: Light-bodied, crisp, and zesty, it often carries flavours of lime, lemon, and green apple.
Pinot Noir: Delicate and often light in colour but rich in complexity, presenting flavours from strawberries to the earthy forest floor.
Prosecco: Italy’s answer to Champagne, it’s fruitier and friendlier, with a hint of green apple and melon.
Riesling: A versatile grape that can be sweet or dry, known for its aromatic qualities, often reminding one of green apples, lime, and honeysuckle.
Rosé Grenache: Often light pink, this rosé brings forth red fruit flavours, like strawberries and raspberries.
Sauvignon Blanc: Crisp, zesty, and often bursting with green and tropical fruit notes.
Shiraz: A chameleon of sorts, this grape can bring smoky, meaty flavours in one region and bright berry notes in another.
Tempranillo: Hailing from Spain, this varietal offers flavours of tobacco, leather, and blackberries.
Zinfandel: This grape can be blushingly sweet (as in White Zinfandel) or robustly jammy and spicy in red wines.
Delve into wine descriptors
Describing wine is an art form. Unlock a palette of terms that paint a vivid picture of a wine’s character and style, elevating your tasting experiences.
Bouquet: Not just flowers for your date; this refers to the unique aroma of mature wines.
Buttery: Often used to describe Chardonnays that have undergone malolactic fermentation. It’s reminiscent of the rich, creamy texture of butter.
Finish: The taste that lingers post-sip. A great finish can be the grand finale of your wine experience.
Legs: Those lovely trails your wine leaves on the glass. A hint about the wine’s body and alcohol content.
Linear: A term describing wines that have a straightforward and direct flavour or aroma without many twists and turns.
Nose: Another term for the wine’s aroma. Next time, impress your friends by commenting on a wine’s nose, not just its smell.
Oaky: A term often used to describe wines that have a toasted or vanilla note from ageing in oak barrels.
Opulent: Think of wines that are rich, intense, and luxuriously textured.
Oxidised: A wine exposed to too much air, leading to a loss of freshness.
Ponderous: A wine that feels heavy and lacks finesse or elegance.
Typicity: This term is all about authenticity. It refers to how well a wine expresses the typical characteristics of its varietal or region.
Dig even deeper into the elements of wine
Wine, much like a puzzle, is made up of intricate pieces that fit together to create a delectable masterpiece. Dive into some of the nuanced elements that make each wine unique.
Astringent: This sensation makes your mouth pucker thanks to its high tannin content. It’s like the wine’s way of giving you a little squeeze.
Backward: Used to describe a wine that hasn’t yet reached its full potential. It’s the wine equivalent of a teen still growing into their shoes.
Chaptalisation: The addition of sugar to grape juice before or during fermentation, often done to increase the alcohol content in wines from cooler regions.
Delestage: A winemaking process of removing the fermenting juice from the grape skins and seeds, then later returning it. It’s like giving the wine a brief vacation.
Maceration: The time juice spends in contact with grape skins and seeds. Think of it as the grape’s spa day, where colour and flavour are extracted.
Malolactic fermentation: This mouthful of a term refers to the process of transforming sharp malic acid into creamier lactic acid.
Minerality: A term to describe wine flavours reminiscent of wet stones or chalk, often found in certain white wines.
Phenolics: Compounds found in grape skins, seeds, and stems that contribute to a wine’s texture and taste.
Residual sugar (RS): The natural grape sugars left in wine after fermentation. Higher RS means a sweeter sip.
Tannins: Those compounds cause the dry, puckering sensation in some red wines. Like the backbone of a wine, they give it structure.
Terroir: This encapsulates the entire environment a grapevine grows in. It’s the grape’s autobiography in a single word.
Ullage: The space left in a wine bottle, barrel, or tank not filled with wine to give it some breathing room.
Swirl, sniff and savour with more wine-related terms
Decanting: Pouring wine into a decanter allows it to breathe, opening up its flavours.
Sommelier: These maestros of wine are the DJs of the dining world, setting the tone and ensuring every glass hits the right note.
Vintage: A wine’s vintage refers to the specific year the grapes were harvested.
Blind tasting: Tasting wines without knowing their identity. A fun challenge for your next wine night!
Cellaring: Storing wines in optimal conditions to improve them over time. It’s like a wine’s beauty sleep.
Cheers to the newest wine expert on the block
There you have it – a treasure trove of terms to elevate your wine game. With this guide under your belt, you’re all set to impress at your next wine gathering. But remember, while knowledge is wonderful, wine is all about enjoyment. So, let your tastebuds lead the way and relish every sip. And if you want to find a bottle of wine to bring to your next wine gathering, head to Little Prince Wine, a chic, European-inspired Melbourne wine shop and shop online or in-store.