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Wine words: the vocabulary of experts

There are horizontal or vertical tastings, the wines can be balanced, what’s the wine body? Here you can find all answers

How do professional tasters value to wine? Appearance first, then smell, impression in the mouth, total flavor in the mouth, and aftertaste. This is the process to arrive to the final marks for wine, that everybody can find on guides.

Appearance consists of a wine's clarity and its color. The best way to judge color is against a white background, a tablecloth or piece of paper, with not a lot of wine in the glass.

The smelling is important, first of all, to determine all flavours of wine. First impressions are crucial here and far more reliable than subsequent sniffs. Based on appearance and smell, you now have enough information to determine a wine's overall quality and age.
Tasting , there are other lot things: flavor of the barrel, fruit flavors and their intensity, the acidity, tannin and of course body and balance of wine.

Wine Words

Acetic: an acid that, combined with ethyl acetate, gives the vinegary smell

Alcohol: product of fermentation. The alcoholic strength of a wine is a measure of its concentration of Ethanol.

Apples: some German Rieslings, some Chardonnays smell and/or taste of apples as part of their varietal character. Often, an oxidized wine will smell of apples

Apricots: Sémillons, Muscats (Moscatos), and some sweet Rieslings recall apricots: wines affected by Botrytis cinerea, or noble rot, may often recall apricots or peaches.

Balance: wine is balanced when all of its characteristics work together in harmony, with no single element overpowering anything other.

Bananas: responsible is iso-amyl acetate, which diminishes with age. For this reason this sensation is correlated with very young wines, very cold fermentation or freshly bottled wines.

Barrique or oak: flavor of wines that have been aged in small, usually newish wood barrels.

Berries: fruity characteristic of young red wines.

Bitter: basic taste sensation. Tipical of red wine with high tannin content.

Body: the weight of wine or how it feels in your mouth. Due to its alcoholic content and to its other physical components.

Bouquet: the secondary fermentation processes (aging in wood and bottle) produce a lot of odors. Ofter they are independent from the grape variety used.

Brut: connotes a very dry wine.

Butter: sensation obtained by malolactic fermentation. Tipical of Chardonnay-based wines

Candy: the odor and flavor of young white wines, tipical of Pinot noir-based wines.

Cherry: this fruit on the nose or palate is the hallmark signpoint of Pinot noir or Merlot.

Corked: a wine suffers from a specific fault where a mouldy cork

Dry: a wine without noticeable sweetness. A dry wine retains little or no sugar after fermentation.

Extract: substances, mostly derived from grape skins and just under the skin’s surface, that contribute tannin, colour, glycerol and flavour to a wine.

Fat: wine of higher than average alcohol and/or glycerin content.

Finish: synonymous with “length”. The sensual impression, long or short, strong or weak, that lingers after you have swallowed a wine.

Flowery: fragrance akin to flowers.

Fresh: tipical for young whites or light reds to denote a pleasant, youthful sensation.

Herbaceous: smelling or tasting of soil-covered herbs, often in Merlots.

Hydrogen sulphide: the smell of rotten eggs or like substances often found in wines. When used an excess of sulfur dioxide burnt matchstick odor.

Maderised: a fault whereby the wine has oxidised and over-heated giving it a brown colour and burnt, stale taste. Not a fault in Madeira wine.

Phenolics: compounds found in wine, mostly coming from grape skins. These include tannin and flavour compounds.

Prickly: a taste sensation derived from small amounts of residual carbon dioxide in wines. Often in white wines fermented cold.

Resin: the smell caused by the addition of small amounts of resin to the fermentation.

Salty: often this term applies to the general mineral content of wines.

Structure: similar to body. It means wine has an "architecture" of fruit, acidity, alcohol and tannins, that should allow it to age and stop it from being bland or wishy-washy.

Tannin: a naturally occurring chemical that helps to preserve red wine and adds a savoury edge to the flavour. Tannins are present in grape stems, pips and skins. Tannin also comes from oak ageing of wine.

Volatile Acidity: tsting terms that wine bores often trot out to impress. It can become a fault arriving to vinegar aroma and taste. Caused by bacterial infection, especially of acetobacter.

Yeasty: yeasts, or rather enzymes in yeasts, ferment wines. Tipical of Champagne

by R. T.
02 february 2009, Food & Fun > Knowledge