In trying to summarize a subject as vast as wine, we started out by trying to cull information from as many sources as possible. In the end though, we felt it best to give a clear understanding of wine at its most basic definition and continue from there…Here is our favorite:
“Wine is an alcoholic beverage typically made of fermented grape juice. Wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast consumes the sugars found in the grapes and converts them into alcohol. Different varieties of grapes and strains of yeasts are used depending on the type of wine being produced.”
In our following summaries on types of wine, we’ll talk in some detail about wine from – as they say – vine to glass. That being said, here are some important terms that we’ll use along with a brief definition of each (most of this information is culled from cleanskins.com):
Varietal: Wine made from a particular grape variety (for example, Cabernet Sauvignon); the opposite of a generic wine (for example, Chablis).
Viticulture: The cultivation and culture of grapes for wine making as it relates to the vineyard.
Terroir: 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.
Vintage: The period of picking or harvesting grapes each year, as in ‘the vintage’; also the year a wine was made or ‘vintaged’.
Vintner: A person who makes wine.
Old World vs. New World: Wine, viticulture and winemaking philosophy from Europe vs. that of the U.S., Australia, South America and South Africa.
Acidity: 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.
Body: ‘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.
Blend: Combining two or more grape varieties, vintages or locations to create balance, increase quality or maintain consistency.
Color: The depth of color is an extremely important indicator of quality and condition. Darker colors in whites usually indicate older wines, while red wines tend to lighten and tawny with age.
Complexity: Complexity in a wine indicates many different, well-merged flavors to add interest and personality to a wine to the point of being fascinating.
Finish: The lingering taste or aftertaste of a wine after it has been swallowed or spat out. High tannin content might produce a ‘firm finish’, or lack of flavor might yield a ‘short finish’.
Oak: Oak is a variety of the wood Genus Quercus. Wines are usually stored in oak containers, to impart extra and more complex flavors. French, American and German oak barrels are widely used in Australia, but are getting quite expensive as quality oak becomes scarcer.
Tannin: 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.
Crisp: Crisp is a complimentary term for white wine with refreshing acidity.
Clean: Describes a wine that has no off-flavours or other nasties in a wine. Usually used to describe a wine that is refreshing.
Dry: 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.
Firm: Term referring to taste experience at the back of the palate, caused by tannins.
Flabby: Flabby describes a wine, which has too low in acid structure, leaving the wine “bland”.
Legs: Columns of wine that trickle down the inside of a glass that indicates high alcohol content in wine.
Oaky: Oaky describes a wine that smells and/or tastes of oak.
Perfumed: A perfumed wine has lots of smell, usually of a slightly musky sort. This is typically a white wine term.
Soft: A wine with mild tannin or acid sensation with no harshness on the palate and after-palate is called soft.
Sweet: More than fruity; pertaining to sugar.
Velvety: A description of texture, usually used for wines with lots of glycerine (an alcohol that contributes to sweetness) and not much tannin.
From here, you can click on one of the links on the barrels below for much more information (and some of our video segments) on red, white and sparkling wines. Enjoy!