By Rebecca Sterry

Occasionally, reading up about wine can come across as a bit of an ‘alien’ language. You find yourself trying to become acquainted with the terms used to describe your favourite bottle of Chardonnay (other than it tastes delicious), though when it comes to tannins and wine legs, you just begin to stare at the screen! 

Well, we can help you out a bit there. We’ve created a glossary of wine terms commonly used so that you no longer have to stare at the screen, wondering how you can pull off using ‘tannin’ when describing it to your friends. And a Chardonnay is your favourite you say? Well, you can describe Verwood Estate Wines’ 2019 Vintage Chardonnay as a light and smooth wine that if you swirl the glass around, you’ll find the wine legs fall down quicker indicating a lower alcohol content, with low tannins, not leaving a harsh aftertaste on the palate and an overall crisp, citrus finish – that’ll be sure to impress them and make it seem like you know your stuff! (We got you!)

Acids: acids are found naturally in wines. It gives wines their tartness – wines with high acidity usually taste tart and crisp, whereas a low acidic wine has smoother characteristics.

Advection: a type of frost that can affect and cause damage to grape vines. This type of frost occurs when cold air blows into an area to replace the warmer air that was present before the weather change.

Aftertaste: a term used to describe what taste is left behind on the palate after wine has been swallowed.

Aroma: the smell of wine. Wine can have an array of aromas, berries and citrus notes being common ones.

Baume: a measurement of the dissolved solids in grape juices that determines the sugar content and ripeness, thus indicating the potential alcohol content within the wine.

Bottle shock: a term used to describe when a wine is initially bottled – the wine is often characterised as being ‘muted’ or ‘disjointed’ in its flavours, though this disappears after a week or so.

Budburst: is the term given for the arrival of the new leaves on a vine in Spring. This is the first stage in a growing vines’ cycle and can happen at various points throughout Spring, depending on the climate and the type of grape.

Cellar door: an area of a winery where tasting can occur that is open to the public in which they can visit and find out more about the winery/vineyard. It can also be used as an area for point of sale purchases. 

Clarification: is the process in which winemakers will choose either to rack or siphon their wine, from one tank to barrel, to leave precipitates and solids behind. These are commonly known as ‘pomace’. 

Cool climate wines: are those that are grown from either a Southern or Northern property, which has an average grape growing temperature of below 19 degrees Celsius in the January or July months (whichever is applicable; January for cool climate wines Australia). They are typically better balanced in flavours and aromas with low to moderate alcohol content due to having concentrated exposure and overall cooler air temperatures. This means that the grapes in these regions have longer ripening periods in which the UV rays are able to penetrate the grape skins long enough to create supple tannins.

Effervescence: bubbles in a liquid, often found in sparkling wines.

Fermentation: the process in which a grape must go through to become wine. During fermentation, yeast converts the grape sugars into alcohol. It is also a crucial stage for aromas, flavours, and the overall colour to develop.

Finish: a synonym to aftertaste, it is the taste left behind on the palate after wine has been swallowed; some wines may have longer finishes on the palate (full-bodied wines) and some wines will have a shorter finish (lighter-bodied wines). 

Fortified wines: wines that are stronger in terms of alcohol content due to being mixed with a distilled spirit (usually Brandy). Common examples of fortified wines include Port and Sherry.

Full-bodied: a term typically used to describe red wines when a red has a higher alcohol percentage of 13.5%. Full-bodied wines tend to have more complex flavours and are often richer in taste; common examples include Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah/Shiraz.

Legs: the term used to describe the residue left around a wine glass once the wine has been swirled. Wine legs indicate the level of alcohol content in the wine, so the higher the ‘wine leg’ residue appears on the glass means that there is a high alcoholic content, so a smaller ‘wine leg’ represents a lower alcoholic content.

Microclimate: the climate of a very small or restricted area that typically differs from the climate of the general surrounding area.

Oaked: a wine that has been aged in oak barrels through the fermentation process to alter the taste. Oaked wines usually have a buttery, creamy taste, often with hints of vanilla or honey.

Palate: a tasting term for the feel and taste of wine in the mouth’.

Pomace: the precipitates and solids left behind during the classification process of winemaking. They are filtered out usually when a winemaker decides to either siphon or rack their wine from one tank to barrel.

Pressing: the process in which juice is extracted from grapes to use in wine making. This stage occurs after fermentation for red grapes, though prior to fermentation for white grapes. Pressing can be completed by hand, a wine press or by the traditional ‘stomping’ method.

Pruning: Pruning is an annual vineyard operation designed to maintain a vine’s shape, vigour, and productivity. It is usually a procedure carried out in the winter months to prepare for the following season, in which it is a monotonous process, traditionally performed by hand. Though, in recent years, the process has been re-developed so that machinery-aids can speed up this method.

Radiation: a type of frost that can affect and cause damage to grape vines. This type of frost is the most common, with the tell-tale signs of a radiation frost having clear skies, calm or little wind, and temperatures dropping below 0°C during the night, yet being over 0°C throughout the day. 

Rosé wine-making process: wine that is fermented with red grapes, though only for a few hours to acquire the pink-ish tint to the liquid before pressing, unlike a red wine that is fermented in red grapes for weeks at a time in order to gain the deep, ruby red colour of most red wines.

Sommelier: a specialist wine waiter/steward who is trained and knowledgeable of wines. They are a professional in all aspects of the beverage service.

Tannins: a group of bitter and astringent compounds found in many components of nature, including grapes. In wine, tannins are what give the alcoholic beverage texture, weight, and structure. The tannins also determine the quality of the wine, either making it more bitter and obtrusive or ‘silky/velvety’ in texture.

Topography: ‘the physical appearance of the natural features of an area of land, especially the shape of its surface’.

Unoaked: wines that are not aged in oak barrels, but stainless-steel barrels instead. This creates more of a refreshing taste, usually with crisp apple and citrus flavours, and therefore producing a lighter tasting wine in comparison to those aged in oak.

Veraison: the onset of the second stage of fruit ripening which is once the fruit starts to change colour from green, becomes softened and gradually increases in more size.

Vinification: the production of wine, of which grape juice is converted into wine through the fermentation process.

Vintage wine: the year in which a wine’s grapes were picked. This can be from grapes that were all, or primarily grown and picked in one year. Vintage means that each vintage wine will have a unique flavour profile, based on the grapes harvested from that particular year.

Vintner: a person who either sells or makes wine.

Viticulturist: the cultivation of grapes for the making of wine.

Winemaker: a person involved in the occupation of making wine.

Congratulations, you’re now ready to impress guests at your next dinner party!