The world of wine not only includes countless grape varieties, countries and regions: it is also the language itself that gives wine culture its unique face and also convinces experienced connoisseurs to learn new vocabulary voluntarily. The following twenty wine terms are undoubtedly among the most important.
7 important wine terms for the senses
The first seven terms from the wine language revolve around the human senses. Words like these describe how connoisseurs perceive a wine, what special impressions there are and what evokes them:
Astringency means a furry feeling in the mouth. A wine leaves that dry, slightly rough mouthfeel due to tannins it contains. The tannins in the wine react with proteins in the oral mucosa, causing them to change their structure.
The bouquet describes the scent of a wine. Connoisseurs explore it in detail with their noses before they drink the wine. The term itself comes from the French language, which is why the bouquet is often called “bouquet”. Translated, this means bouquet of flowers. Which nuances the bouquet has in store depends on the grape varieties, terroir and aging.
The extract of a wine is what makes up the body of the drop. Various substances such as minerals, glycerin, sugar, soluble fiber and acids are found in different concentrations. The more extractive a wine is, the more viscous and rich it feels in the mouth. Wines that are harvested late, noble sweet wines and strong red wines that have matured for a long time are often quite rich in extract.
4. Church window
The church window is, to take up the previous term again, a good sign of an extract-rich wine. This is a visual indicator of viscosity. When swinging the glass, the wine does not flow smoothly down the edges of the glass, but forms pointed and round arched windows that look like church windows. The cause of the phenomenon is the changed surface tension of the liquid, as the alcohol contained evaporates faster than water.
Tannin is a vegetable tanning agent that plants in nature use to protect themselves from pests, among other things. In the case of grapes, the tannin is mainly found in the skins of the berries, their seeds and the stalk structure. Tannin plays an important role, especially in red wine. It often creates a feeling of astringency in the mouth.
The reverberation marks the end of every moment of pleasure. After the connoisseur swallows the wine, a sensory impression remains for a few seconds. Especially through the retronasal connection when exhaling, special notes such as mineral, fruity or spicy appear again. The unit for the length of the reverberation is caudalies, it is given in seconds.
7. Wine mistakes
No connoisseur would want a wine flaw in the glass. Different errors indicate different processes that change the appearance, taste and smell of a wine. These include, for example, vinegar notes and cork taste.
10 wine terms from the vineyard and cellar
Those who immerse themselves in the world of wine also learn to appreciate the work of winegrowers from all over the world. In order to find out what happens between the vineyard and the bottle, an open ear for the experts is essential. The following wine terms provide a better understanding:
Expansion describes the measures a winegrower takes after fermentation and before bottling a wine. This often includes storing white wines on the fine lees in stainless steel tanks or aging red wines in wooden barrels. Various containers such as glass balloons, carafes and concrete eggs are also available for expansion.
A barrique is a wooden barrel made of oak, which usually holds 225 liters. This corresponds to the classic ship dimensions from the Bordelais. Merchants used to use barriques to transport their wines, today barriques are used for aging.
3. Green harvest
The green harvest is an important step in the vineyard. Even before the actual harvest and during the growing season, winegrowers remove grapes to limit the yield of a vine. This usually happens just before the fruit begins to ripen. The remaining berries are then successful in terms of extract, color and taste.
The mash is the result of the first pressing process in the cellar, including seeds, skin, must and, in some cases, stalks. With red wines, longer contact with the mash is often desired in order to promote the transfer of the desired substances into the must and thus also into the later wine.
5. Malolactic fermentation
Malolactic fermentation takes place after alcoholic fermentation. This wine technical term is derived from the Latin origins of the words apple and milk. During malolactic fermentation, special bacteria break down the malic acid in a wine and convert it into lactic acid. This results in a milder and smoother wine. The process itself takes up to forty days.
6. Must weight
Winegrowers describe the density of the must of their grapes as must weight. This is determined with the help of various devices and methods. A high must weight indicates a high extract content and later higher alcohol content in the wine. In Germany, winegrowers indicate the must weight in degrees Oechsle.
7. Fine yeast
The fine yeast is the portion of yeast particles that remain in the wine after decanting a wine from the fermentation tank to the aging tank. They are extremely fine and sink very slowly. Many winegrowers like to store their wines longer on the fine lees, as this ensures smoothness, harmony and a full mouthfeel.
Oechsle is the surname of Ferdinand Oechsle, who invented the German unit of measurement for must weight, degree Oechsle. Winegrowers measure the must weight with refractometers or saccharimeters, among other things, and state it in °Oechsle. In order to find out what to expect from their grapes, winegrowers measure the must weight and compare it with special tables and the specifications of their growing region.
Destemming is the step between harvesting and pressing the berries. Here, winemakers remove the stems and leaves of the grapes, leaving only the berries. This is partly done by hand, but many wineries now have special machines. One of the main reasons for destemming is to avoid too much transfer of tannins into the wine.
The dosage is relevant when preparing sparkling wines . Here, winemakers add a mix to their wines before the second fermentation in the bottle, which can consist of sugar, yeast, must and wine, for example. This mixture initiates the fermentation in the bottle. This dosage should not be confused with the shipping dosage after bottle fermentation, during which winegrowers optimize the residual sugar content of their wine.
3 more wine vocabulary for connoisseurs
The technical wine terms already shown enable a very comprehensive understanding of many important processes. The following three words add knowledge to the personal wine vocabulary of ambitious connoisseurs, which is particularly useful at the table and when choosing a wine.
1. Blanc de Noirs
Blanc de Noirs is the wine language used to describe a white wine made from red wine grapes. This is particularly common in France, where winemakers create white crémant or champagne from dark-skinned Pinot Noir berries. But connoisseurs can also find white still wines made from dark varieties on the market today.
When producing such a wine, it is important that winegrowers separate the grape skins from the must as quickly as possible in order to prevent color transfer. Since the juice of many red grape varieties is naturally not colored, a light must remains.
The term cuvée originally comes from French. Winemakers in France call any wine cuvée, as the name derives from the word “cuve” which means “fermentation vessel”.
In addition, cuvée also means blend. In Germany and other countries, winemakers use this word to signal to connoisseurs that their wine consists of multiple grape varieties or grapes from multiple locations.
In addition, the must of the first pressing in France’s champagne houses is called Cuvée. It is therefore important here to incorporate the ambiguity of the word into your own wine vocabulary.
3. New and Old World
The world of wine includes both “old” and “new” countries. Connoisseurs subdivide these to enable better orientation. The old world includes all countries where viticulture has been at home for thousands of years. This affects France, Italy, Germany and Spain, among others.
In the new world, viticulture enjoys a mostly shorter tradition, but this does not mean that the local winemakers are inexperienced. As a rule, these are countries that were only discovered by ship in the course of history. Here, too, wine regions and estates often look back on many decades and generations of viticulture. The new world includes the USA, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa.
With all this wine vocabulary, connoisseurs and beginners alike can prepare themselves for the next social gathering over a glass of their favorite wine and also feel more confident when choosing a new wine. Apart from this, the worldwide wine jargon contains countless other terms. Reason enough to honor the philosophy of lifelong learning here as well.