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About Wine

Glossary

Ever been confused by the term malo-lactic fermentation or can't make sense of the words astringent tannins. Here’s where the Wine Selectors glossary can help. Everything you ever needed to know about wine can be found to help you become an expert at your next dinner party.

A

Anthocyanins

The coloured forms of tannins present in the skin of black grapes. They are responsible for the colour in all red wines.

Assemblage

French word used for the blending process whereby the different components or grape varieties are added together to make the final wine ready for bottling.

Astringency

A dry, puckering effect on the gums and cheeks induced primarily by tannins and acids.

Austere

This term is used when describing the firm, tingling, acid sensation usually associated with young white wines.

B

Barrel aging

The period of time between the end of fermentation and bottling. The wine is stored in oak barrels and extracts compounds from the oak that give extra complexity to the aroma and flavour profile of the wine.

Barriques

225 litre oak barrel, originally from Bordeaux. Holds the equivalent of 24 cases of wine.

Baumé

The common Australian unit for measuring grape sugar ripeness.

Blind Tasting

Evaluating wines, but not knowing the identity of the wine being sampled, thereby eliminating any favouritism or bias. (Bottles are usually wrapped in a brown paper bag).

Body

Impression of weight and consistency in the mouth due to a combination of alcohol, tannin extract and fruit.

Bouquet

The term used to describe the pleasant and characteristic fragrance when smelling a wine. Bouquet is more traditionally talked about with mature wines and the subtle aromas that develop with bottle age.

C

Carbonic Maceration

A process by which grapes are left whole and allowed to undergo a form of internal maceration and fermentation by which the resultant wine is fragrant and fruity, but lower in tannin.

Cassis

Raw blackcurrant or blackcurrant jam, the smell commonly associated with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cedary

The smell of cedar wood, usually associated with red wine that has been aged in new oak barrels.

Citrussy

A combination of orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit aromas and flavours.

Corked

A wine fault that occasionally occurs due to a tainted cork which imparts a mouldy, musty, dusty smell and flavour into a wine. The fruit character of the wine is also dulled.

Creamy

A tactile sensation in the mouth that is likened to the rich, smooth consistency of cream.

Crisp Acidity

A lively acidity, the kind you find in a fresh juicy Granny Smith apple.

D

Drive

A wine that moves across the palate with great intensity and immediate influence on the taste bud receptors.

Dumb

Refers to the nose of a wine when it appears a little closed. The aromas do not leap from the glass nor give an instant perception in a positive or negative way.

E

Egg Whites

The egg whites are separated from the yolk and added to the wine as a fining agent to clarify and remove harsh tannins from red wines.

F

Farmyardy

A common term used to describe the animal, earthy or vegetable aromas that develop in mature wines.

Filtration

Filtration is generally employed to remove visible particles and haze, to minimise the formation of precipitation or hazes during storage, or to prevent microbiological spoilage. It involves the racking of lees; gravity induced settling with the aid of fining agents; membrane filtering through various media.

Fining

A winemaking technique used for clarifying wine by the addition of natural or synthetic materials such as egg whites or bentonite.

Finish

The sensations of taste, texture and aroma you continue to perceive after the wine is swallowed, the longer the better (similar to aftertaste).

Floral

Fresh flower aromas commonly found on the nose of aromatic white grape varieties such as Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewurztraminer.

Forest Floor

A commonly used expression to describe the pine needle, tea leaf, herbal and earthy characteristic found in red wines such as Pinot Noir.

Fortification

The process of adding wine spirit to increase alcohol content and / or stop fermentation depending on the desired wine style.

Fruit-driven

A wine that shows good expression of unadulterated fruit i.e. additional complexities such as oak do not dominate the nose or palate flavours.

G

Generous

Full in flavour and texture, mouth filling, plenty of appeal.

H

Herbaceous

Used to describe the vegetal characteristics of a wine, for example cut grass, capsicum, tomato leaf, gooseberry, lantana. It is commonly found in cooler climate style wine and varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Hogshead

300 litre oak barrel. The smaller surface area, relative to a 225L Barrique, reduces the uptake of oaky flavours into the wine during maturation. Many winemakers will use American oak hogsheads for this reason.

Hot Warm

A term used to describe the perceived alcohol content of a wine. Generally, a wine with high alcohol content will leave a warm, burning sensation in the back of the throat once the wine is swallowed.

Hue

A term used when describing and assessing the appearance and depth of colour of a wine, for example Semillon can have a pale straw hue when young and transform into a deep yellow hue when aged.

J

Jammy

Super-ripe fruit characters found commonly in wines made from hot-climate wine regions or during hot-vintages.

L

Lees Stirring

A winemaking practice whereby the lees left after fermentation are deliberately agitated to give the wine more flavour, this is commonly undertaken with barrel-fermented white wines such as Chardonnay.

Left on Lees

Some white wines such as Chardonnay will be left in contact with the dead yeast cells and other particles generated from the fermentation process to add flavour and complexity to the finished wine.

Legs

Columns of wine which trickle down the inside of a glass; caused by glycerol, a by-product of wine fermentation. Also know as 'tears.'

Luscious

A wine descriptor meaning; ripe, richly sweet, succulent yet fresh fruit character.

M

Malo-lactic Fermentation

A biologic form of wine deacidification whereby harsh malic acid is transformed into softer lactic acid. It also stablises the wine, protecting it against refermentation once in the bottle.

Maturation

The period between the end of fermentation and bottling whereby the wine is clarified, stabilised or stored in oak barrels.

Mocha

The aroma or flavour of coffee and chocolate found in wines that have usually spent some time in American oak.

Mouthfeel

This is the same as texture; the tactile qualities of a wine, often compared to the feel of fine materials.

Must

Used interchangeably with the term juice, it refers to freshly crushed grape juice (with or without skins), pre-fermentation.

O

Oenologist

A person who has tertiary qualifications in the science and principles and practices of wine and winemaking.

Oenology

The study of scientific principles and practices in wine and winemaking.

Open Fermenters

A smaller sized fermenting vessel that has no lid and is generally used to ferment smaller volumes and/or premium parcels of fruit e.g. Pinot Noir. Header boards and other plunging devices are used to submerged the grape skins for colour and tannin extraction into the red juice.

Oxidation

The deteriorating effect on wine from exposure to air or excessive ageing. Causes red wine to take on a brick red colour and white wines to deepen through yellow, gold and eventually brown.

P

Primary Fermentation

The process whereby sweet grape juice is transformed into alcoholic wine, when yeast is added.

Pumpovers

A winemaking procedure where the fermenting juice is pumped over the grape skins to extract colour and tannin from the skins into the wine.

R

Rack and Return

A red winemaking technique that draws off the juice from the bottom of the fermenting vessel and pumps it back into the top to keep the grape skins in contact with the fermenting juice for extraction of colour and tannins.

Racking

The process of transferring juice or wine from one vessel to another such as barrel to tank. Once a wine has been left to settle, the clear liquid is drawn off and the deposits are left behind.

Residual Sugar

The sugar content that remains in wine after fermentation is complete.

S

Secondary characters

Relate to the aroma and flavour profile of a wine once it has spent time in the bottle. More complex, mature characters will dominate with less influence of ripe berry and fruit.

Sediment

The non-harmful material that accumulates in the bottom of a bottle resulting from the precipitation of small particles from the wine such as tannins, proteins or tartrate crystals. Sediment appears most frequently in older red wines.

Skin contact

The stage between the crushing of the grapes and the fermenting of the must, whereby the grape juice is left in contact with the skins to extract colour and tannin and flavour.

Static Fermenters

Is a multipurpose vessel which can drain crushed grapes before, during or after fermentation, carry out routine pumpovers and be used as a storage vessel. The base is usually on a 45° angle to allow the juice to drain efficiently. Depending on the type, some statics have provision for breaking up the drained skins by means of an internal horizontal rotating shaft with projecting fingers.

Stelvin'

A brand of screw cap increasingly being used by producers as their preferred bottle closure for both white and red wines.

T

T.A

An abbreviation for titratable acidity which is a measure of the level of acid present in the wine.

Tannin

Cheek-drying astringent compounds found in grape seeds, skins and stems. They help preserve red wines while they mature in the bottle.

Taste buds

Specialised regions on the tongue that possess receptor cells for taste sensation.

Terroir

A French term commonly used when comparing the characteristic differences between particular wines. Terroir is the combined influences of climate, soil, aspect and topography that impact on vine growth and fruit ripening.

Texture

Tactile qualities of a wine, often compared to the feel of fine materials.

V

Vanilla

One of the smells most commonly associated with ageing in new oak barrels.

Varietal

If a wine is said to be varietal, the aromas and flavour characteristics are very typical or true to the particular grape variety. The winemaker has been able to capture the essence / identity of the grape variety in the bottle that closely represents what it is like on the grapevine.

Vintage

Relates to the year in which the grapes were harvested. For a vintage to be printed on the wine bottle label e.g. 1998, Australian labelling laws state that the wine must consist of at least 85% of a variety(s) of grape harvested in that vintage.

Viscosity

The perception of a wine having a smooth, velvety mouth-feel. Viscosity refers to the liquid weight of the wine.

W

Wild Yeast

Naturally occurring yeast found on grape skins in the vineyard or floating around in the winery and on winery equipment. Wild yeast will start the fermentation of grape juice.

Y

Youthful

A wine that exhibits fresh, primary fruit characters, has good acid structure and shows no premature development can be described as 'youthful'.

Z

Zesty

Usually refers to the acid component of a wine. Zestiness implies the wine has a re-freshing, crisp, lively acid structure.