aeration — the deliberate addition of oxygen to round out and soften a wine, this can be done by swirling the wine in your glass or by decanting the wine. Also known as allowing the wine to breathe. It improves the taste by toning down astringent tannins and releasing fruit and floral aromas.
aging — holding wine in barrels, tanks, and bottles to advance them to a more desirable state.
alcohol — Alcohol levels in wine are directly correlated with the amount of sugar that’s developed in the grapes at harvest time: the higher the sugar levels, the higher the potential alcohol. Yeast consumes the sugar and converts it into alcohol during fermentation. The style (or varietal) of wine, the climate where the grapes were grown, and the winemaking/fermentation process are all key factors in determining both the sugar content of the grapes and the amount of alcohol in your bottle. When tasting a wine, you’ll notice alcohol comes through as heat in your back of your mouth or throat. A higher ABV (alcohol by volume) wine will taste warmer and bolder; almost like a slight burning sensation on your palate.
aroma — In general, a wine’s “aroma,” or “nose,” is the smell of the wine in the glass. The aroma can be floral, citrus, fruity, vegetal, earthy or any number of familiar scents depending on the grape variety used, the winemaking process implemented and the wine’s storage conditions.
balance — A wine is balanced when all the different components are working in harmony. The fundamental elements of wine – acids, sugars, tannins, and alcohol should be balanced in order for the wine to be pleasant and enjoyable.
barrel — the oak container used for fermenting and aging wine. As well as storing the wine the oak can impart flavour to the wine too. It also provides the perfect environment for certain metabolic reactions to occur.
blend — a wine made from more than one grape variety.
body — a tactile sensation describing the weight and fullness of wine in the mouth. A wine can be light, medium, or full bodied.
botrytis — a beneficial mold that pierces the skin of grapes and causes dehydration, resulting in natural grape juice exceptionally high in sugar. Botrytis is largely responsible for the world’s finest dessert wines. (see “noble rot”).
breathing — exposing wine to oxygen to improve its flavors (see “aeration”).
brut — french term denoting dry champagnes or sparkling wines.
complex — a wine exhibiting numerous aromas, nuances, and flavours.
cork taint — undesirable aromas and flavours in wine often associated with wet cardboard or moldy basements.
corked — a term that denotes a wine that has suffered cork taint (not wine with cork particles floating about).
dry — a taste sensation often attributed to tannins and causing dryness on the inside of the mouth; as opposed to sweet.
fermentation — The process of fermentation in winemaking basically turns grape juice into an alcoholic beverage. It does so by the conversion of grape sugars to alcohol through the use of naturally present yeast or addition of commercial yeast.
filtration / fining — techniques that are used to clarify wine and help winemakers remove unwanted elements in a wine that affect appearance and taste. Filtration works by straining particles out of the liquid. Fining is part of the clarification and stabilisation process and involves adding a substance to the wine that will flush out certain elements that may cause a wine to look hazy or affect its aroma, colour or bitterness.
finish — the impression of textures and flavours lingering in the mouth after swallowing wine.
full-bodied — a wine high in alcohol and flavors, often described as “big”
legs – The droplets of wine that form on the inside of the glass. No the wine’s legs or tears do not indicate the quality of the wine but prescribes details on the wine’s alcohol content.
lees — leftover yeast particles from autolysis, which is the self-destruction of yeast cells by enzymes created from fermentation. As strange as this may seem, lees are used in white and sparkling wines to add beneficial rich / creamy textures and flavours.
length — the amount of time that flavours persist in the mouth after swallowing wine; a lingering sensation.
malolactic fermentation —(also known as malolactic conversion or MLF) is a process in winemaking in which tart-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid.
mouth-feel — how a wine feels on the palate; it can be rough, smooth, velvety, or furry.
must – (from the Latin vinum mustum, “young wine“) is freshly crushed fruit juice (usually grape juice) that contains the skins, seeds, and stems of the fruit
noble rot — the layman’s term for botrytis.
nose — a tasting term describing the aromas and bouquets of a wine.
oak/oaky — tasting term denoting smells and flavors of vanilla, baking spices, coconut, mocha or dill caused by barrel-aging.
oenology — the science of wine and winemaking.
oxidation — wine exposed to air that has undergone a chemical change. When oxidation is a fault, the wine—red or white—tends to lose vibrancy in both color and flavor. Whites begin to brown; reds lose their ruddy hue and become russet or orange. If exposed to air too long, a wine can become oxidized simply turning the wine to vinegar!
sulfites – a food preservative widely used in winemaking, thanks to their ability to maintain the flavour and freshness of wine. They also carry a lot of stigma and have a very bad and unfair reputation – but we’ll unpack that another time.
tannins — the phenolic compounds in wines that leave a bitter, dry, and puckery feeling in the mouth, particularly on the inside of your cheeks. Tannins are mostly found in red wine but some white wines have tannin too (from aging in wooden barrels or fermenting on skins).
texture — a tasting term describing how wine feels on the palate.
typicity — a tasting term that describes how well a wine expresses the characteristics inherent to the variety of grape.
varietal / variety – both often referred the grape variety, grown and used to make the wine such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and so forth. However the word varietal is an adjective, and refers to the wine. It describes a wine that is made from a single or dominant grape variety. Such wines are called varietal wines. For a wine to be varietally labeled it must be a minimum of 75% made from the stated grape variety.
vinification — the process of making wine.
vinology — the scientific study of wines and winemaking.
vintage — the year the wine is harvested.
yeast — a microorganism endemic to vineyards and produced commercially that converts grape sugars into alcohol
yield — the productivity of a vineyard