• Post published:August 20, 2020

Why Is Wine So Great?

Wine is like any other beverage you drink, such as orange juice and Coca-Cola. It’s merely something that you choose to drink because you like the taste of it. However, some beverages are anything but ordinary. There is something about the process necessary to make the beverage, the ingredients used, or even the different cultures associated with the drink that make it unique. These are beverages like whiskey, tea, coffee, and, indeed –  wine.

Possibly the reason wine is so great is the process it goes through to become wine. It’s highly doubtful that many people consider the making of Coca-Cola to be art. However, the same can’t be said for wine. There is something so artistic about how wine is made. A lot more can be said for how passionate winemakers are about making wine and doing it while keeping to specific traditions even after these traditions may be outdated.

Why Is It Important To Learn Wine Terms?

Learning the appropriate wine terms may seem like an unnecessary hassle. However, it’s a lot of fun, and you’d be surprised how quickly you start using them without even noticing. Moreover, learning wine terms is an excellent way of figuring out what you like and don’t like about wine. For example, you may realize you like wine that is more ‘dry’ but without much ‘acidic’ taste.

Learning terms about wine grants you access to begin understanding the elements that make up a wine and the winemaking process. When exploring the world of wine, it’s essential to speak the language. Learning the wine lingo helps you easily converse with fellow wine lovers and wine shop owners or employees. 

You’re able to identify which wine pairs well with food, too. For instance, a white Pinot Grigio pairs well with chicken, calamari, and trout while a red Pinot Noir is enjoyed best with duck, salmon, and tuna. Here are some wine terms you should know: 

Abboccato

This is a wine term that stems from Italian origin. It’s used to describe a slightly sweet or ‘off-dry’ tasting wine with a medium body.

ABV

ABV is the abbreviated version of the term ‘alcohol by volume.’ This is the alcohol level of the specific wine, expressed as a percentage, and shown on a wine label.

Acetaldehyde

Acetaldehyde is a toxic organic chemical compound that is the cause of alcohol poisoning. This chemical is produced in our bodies as a byproduct of metabolizing ethyl alcohol.

Acidification

Mainly found in warm and hot climate regions, this is part of the wine additive process used to increase acidity by adding citric or tartaric acid. It’s less common to find the process of acidification in cool climate regions. Climate regions where acidification is common are Australia, Argentina, and South Africa.

Acescence

Wines with increased levels of volatile acidities, such as acetic acid, can commonly be described as having sweet-sour, sharp, or a sort of vinegar tang. These specific flavors can be characterized as acescence. 

Amabile

This term is used to identify semi-sweet wine. The name is of Italian origin.

Amino Acids

These are organic compounds that make up protein. Generally speaking, red wines contain 300 to 1300 mg of amino acids per liter.

Appellation

The term is used to describe a geographical location legally used to identify where and how grapes are grown and made into wine.

Aroma Compounds

Aroma compounds are created from grapes and the fermentation process. The evaporation of alcohol makes it possible for this aroma compound to become volatile. These aroma compounds are chemical compounds that contain low molecular weights, making it possible for them to be carried into the upper nasal passage.

Astringent

The use of tannins affects the salivary proteins and results in them departing from the mouth or tongue, which leaves a drying mouthfeel. This causes a sandpaper-like sensation in your mouth. This sensation can be described as astringent.

AVA

This is the legally designated grape-growing wine regions within the United States. The abbreviation AVA stands for American Viticultural Area. 

Azienda Agricola

It is used to describe a winery with vineyards or a wine estate. This is an Italian term.

Azienda Vinicola

An Italian term used to describe a winery.

Balthazar

A 12-liter bottle of wine that is equivalent to 16 standard wine bottles.

Barrique 

This is typically used as a French term to describe a 225-liter oak barrel. The oak from the barrel originated in Bordeaux as well as the surrounding forests of Limoges.

Beerenauslese (BA)

This term means ‘berry select harvest’ and is used to highlight the correct quality tier in the Prädikatswein systems commonly used in Germany and Austria. Both countries test the presence of Botrytis cinerea or noble rot through hand-selecting the grape berries. BA wines are typically drunk as dessert wines.

Grape must density needs to be between 110 and 128 ºOe or between 26 and 29.8 ºBx and have an alcohol potential of 15 and 17.6 percent ABV to qualify as a Beerenauslese in Germany. For wines to be classified as a Beerenauslese in Austria, grape must density needs to be at or above 127 ºOe, or 29.6 ºBx and contain a potential alcohol level of 17.5 percent ABV or above. 

Biodynamic

Biodynamics is used to describe a homeopathic approach to farming that makes use of natural composts, or preparations, and timing farm work, such as harvesting with celestial (moon and sun) cycles. 

This farming method was first popularized in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher. The two certifying bodies for wine are Demeter International and Biodyvin. 

Certified biodynamic wines commonly contain up to 100 mg/L of sulfites and aren’t known to taste any different to that of non-biodynamic wines.

Biologique

A wine that is organically produced.

Brix 

This is the relative density scale for sucrose dissolved in grape juices and used to determine the potential alcohol level of the wine. The Brix of wine is usually expressed as the symbol °Bx. ABV is approximately 55 to 64 percent of the Brix number. For example, a bottle of dry wine with an ABV of 14.9 and 17.3 percent would be the result of a 27 °Bx.

Cantina 

An Italian wine term that is used to describe a winery or a cellar.

Carbonic Maceration

This type of method is commonly used in winemaking among entry-level Beaujolais wines. Grapes are placed in a sealed vat along with carbon dioxide. Wines made in this way have low tannin and color. These particular wines have an overall juicy fruit flavor while containing bold yeast aromas.

Castello

A castle (or also known as a Château).

Cascina

It is used to describe a winery farmhouse.

Cépage

A French word used to describe the percentage of each variety of grape found in that wine. For example, a red wine containing 60 percent Cabernet and 40 percent Merlot would have a cépage of 60-40. 

Classico

It is used to describe the classic boundaries of a wine zone within a specific region. For example, the Chianti Classico indicated the original boundaries of the wine zone within the larger Chianti zone. 

Chaptalization

This is the standard wine additive process used in cool climates. Sugar is added to the blend when the grape’s sweetness isn’t high enough to produce the minimum alcohol level. The method of Chaptalization is commonly practiced in cool climate regions such as France and Germany. However, this process is illegal in the United States. Therefore, there aren’t any added sugar contents in wine made in the United States, such as in California wines.

Château 

A French word used to describe a castle (or Castello). It’s usually used with the name of the estate winery. 

Clarification and Fining

This is a process conducted after fermentation and involves removing proteins and dead yeast cells. A protein agent such as egg whites or casein (found in milk) or a vegan agent such as bentonite or kaolin clay is added to the wine to clarify the blend. These particular agents are undergoing the process of fining by binding to the suspended particles, which results in them dropping out of the wine.

Clone 

A cultivar of a wine grapevine that is genetically copied. An example of this is that there are more than 1,000 registered clones of the Pinot cultivar. 

Clos

This term is typically found in Burgundy, France, and refers to a walled vineyard.

Colli 

An Italian term for hills. Eastern hills can also be described as ‘Colli Orientali.’

Côtes

A French term typically found on the wine label to classify wine from a contiguous hillside or slope vineyard. 

Côteaux

A French word that’s commonly found on the label of a wine bottle to classify wine from non-contiguous slopes or hillside vineyards.

Cru 

This is a French word that can be translated to ‘growth’ and is used to highlight a vineyard or group of vineyards recognized for quality. The term can usually be seen alongside a quality level that is determined by the appellation rules. Examples of this terminology are ‘premier cru’ and ‘grand cru.’

Cuvée

A French word for ‘vat’ that is used to indicate a specific batch or blend.

Diacetyl

An organic compound that tastes similar to butter and is commonly found in wine. The presence of Diacetyl is created from oak aging and malolactic fermentation. 

Dolce

An Italian term used to describe a wine that is rich and sweet. 

Domaine

You are likely to see this term used in Burgundy and the Loire Valley. It’s an unofficial French term to describe a winery estate with a vineyard property. 

Double Magnum

A bottle of wine that makes up three liters and is equivalent to four standard wine bottles.

Doux

It’s a French word that is used to describe a sweet wine. 

Élevage

Élevage is the term used to describe the process of shaping the wine into its final post-fermentation. This includes fining, aging, blending, and filtering. Élevage is a French word that means raising. 

Élevé en Fûts de Chêne

These French terms mean that the wine is aged in oak.

Eiswein

This term is used to identify ‘ice wine’ in German and Austrian. To make ice wine, grapes need to be harvested and pressed while still frozen.

En Tirage

This is the process of aging sparkling wine while in the bottle and with autolytic yeast particles still present in the wine even after secondary fermentation. En Tirage is the French term used to describe this process. 

Esters

This is one specific type of aroma compound that can be found in wine. Esters occur when acids and alcohol in the wine react together. 

Fattoria

The Italian term used to identify a wine farm.

Fortified Wine

This is a wine that has been stabilized through the addition of spirits. A typical spirit added to stabilize wine is a neutral, clear grape brandy. An example of this is that approximately 30 percent of Port wine is made up of a spirit. This increases the ABV to 20 percent.

Frizzante

An Italian term that is used for a wine that is lightly sparkling. 

Glycerol

A liquid byproduct of fermentation that is odorless, colorless, viscous, and sweet-tasting. Glycerol is seen to add a positive creamy, oily mouthfeel while drinking wine. However, studies have found evidence that factors like residual sugar and alcohol level play a more significant role in mouthfeel.

Grape Must

This is the beginning stages of winemaking where grapes have just been freshly pressed and still contain the stems, seed, and skins of the grape.

Halbtrocken

A German and Austrian term that means ‘half-dry.’

Imperial 

A six-liter bottle of wine that is equivalent to eight standard wine bottles. It’s also known as Methuselah.

Jennie

This is used to describe a 500 ml bottle of wine. Dessert wines are commonly found in this size wine bottle. 

Jeroboam

A bottle of wine that is three liters when containing sparkling wines and 4.5 liters when containing still wines. 

Kabinett

This is an Austrian and German wine term. A Kabinett is classified as a Qualitätswein that is made with slightly higher production standards in Austria. However, in Germany, the Kabinett is recognized as the first tier. This is regarding the Pradikat quality wine system, which quantifies the local wines’ quality by the ripeness of the grape. This system is measured in Oechsle or °Oe. A Kabinett wine is predominantly harvested between 67 and 82 °Oe.

Klassik

An Austrian wine term that is used to describe the type of way a wine is made. Klassik is the name given to wine is made in a traditional and light zesty style. 

Landwein

Landweins are known as table wines made of one or a blend of Austria’s 36 official grapes. The three Landwein regions that you’re likely to see on Austrian wine labels are Bergland, Weinland, and Stiererland. 

Lees

The sediment from dead yeast particles still present in the wine after the fermentation process is complete. You’re able to add creaminess and a richer body to the wine by stirring the lees, or ‘sur lie’ in French.

Lieblich

The name used to describe medium-sweet wines that consist of a maximum of 45 grams per liter of residual sugar (RS). This term has Austrian and German origins.

Malolactic Fermentation (MLF)

MLF occurs when a bacteria called Oenococcus is added to the wine. It converts a specific type of acid called malic acid into a different kind of one called lactic acid. The process of conducting malolactic fermentation helps to add a smoother and creamier taste into the wine. Almost all red and white wines go through MLF. The byproduct of malolactic fermentation is an organic compound called Diacetyl.  

Magnum

A bottle of wine with a capacity of 1.5 liters that is equivalent to two standard bottles of wine.  

Melchoir

A bottle of wine that can hold 18 liters. A Melchoir is equal to 24 standard wine bottles and is also known as Solomon. 

Methuselah

A six-liter bottle of wine that is equivalent to eight standard wine bottles and also known by the name of Imperial.

Medium Plus Barrel Toast

An oak barrel that is moderately well-singed. Conducting this process of burning the oak releases oak lactone. 

Minerality

Minerality was once believed to be the presence of trace minerals in wine. However, recent research has shown that mineral-like aroma in wine is caused by sulfur compounds derived from fermentation. Nonetheless, the term is a non-scientific way of describing flavors present in the wine that taste or smell like soil or rocks. This process is practiced all over the world to make international wines

Natural Wine

Wines that are produced with biodynamic, organic, or sustainable viticulture are classified as a natural wine. These are wines that are processed using little to no additives, including sulfites or sulfur dioxide. Natural wines generally appear cloudy, while some may still have yeast sediment. This is the result of finding and clarification. Typically speaking, natural wines are a more sensitive wine, so these bottles should be stored carefully.   

Noble Rot

This is a fungal infection caused by Botrytis cinerea, commonly found in regions with high levels of humidity. Although it’s considered a flaw in red wine and grapes, it’s appreciated in white wine as it makes the wine taste sweet and gives it flavors of chamomile, ginger, marmalade, and honey. 

Reserve

A widely used wine label term that has a different meaning, depending on which country the wine originates. Reserve is a non-regulated term within the United States. Some wineries use this term to describe a quality level that’s seen as special, while others use it as a marketing tool. Wineries in Austria use the name for wines that are made in a rich style. These wines are usually more than 13 percent ABV and made using hand-harvested grapes.

Residual Sugar (RS)

This is the residual natural grape sugars that are present after the alcoholic fermentation is completed. It’s measured in grams per liter. Wines that contain a high residual sugar are used to improve the flavor of affordable wines and cause them to taste similar to those of premium wines.

Riserva 

It is used to describe a wine that has been left aging for longer than the standard period. The origins of this term are Italian. The length of time that the aging wine is left varies from region to region.

Secco

An Italian term that is used to describe a wine that has a dry taste. 

Wine Clubs

Wine clubs can be classified as an extension of modern wine culture. The purpose of a wine club is to provide its customers with a variety of wine bottles on a monthly or quarterly basis. This is a more convenient way of purchasing wine than the alternative of having to find and buy it independently.  

Young Wine

An immature or young wine is typically bottled and sold within a year of its vintage. These types of wine are well-known for its crisp and fresh flavors.