Tasting Terms

ACIDITY | AFTERTASTE | APPELLATION | BALANCE | BODY | BOTRYTIS
BREATHE | BUTTERY | CRISP | LEGS | LIGHT | MATURITY | NOSE
TANNIN | VARIETAL | VINTAGE

ACIDITY

Vital component in wine that gives "bite" and life.

AFTERTASTE

Strictly the flavor(s) left after the wine is swallowed. This term is often used interchangeably with finish. < top >

APPELLATION/AVA/DOC

The French term, Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, (AOC), refers to a set of comprehensive regulations that specify the precise geographic area in which a given French wine can be made. AOC regulations also stipulate the types of grapes that can be used, the manner in which the vines must be grown and how the wine can be made. The Italian equivalents of France 's AOC laws are known as DOC, Denominazione di Origine Controllata, and a slightly more strict set of regulations known as DOCG, Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. In the U.S. , the regulations governing AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) are far less strict than French or Italian appellation laws. AVAs are designated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. There are now more than 130 areas that have been designated as AVAs including such well known AVAs as the Napa Valley, Stags Leap District, Russian River Valley, Anderson Valley and so on. < top >

BALANCE

Vital relative measuring of different elements in a wine, especially sweetness, acidity, fruit, tannin, and alcohol. Any good mature wine should be well balanced, though a youthful one may still be " out of balance" because it still has an excess of tannins (in red wine) or acids (in white).< top >

BODY

Important measures of a wine's weight that is determined chiefly by its alcoholic strength, but also by its extract. The more body a wine has, the less like water it tastes. < top >

BOTRYTIS

Also called "noble rot," Botrytis cinerea is a beneficial mold that, in just the right warm, humid circumstances, will begin to grow on the outside of grapes. As the mold sucks water from the grapes, they shrivel. This, in turn, concentrates the grapes' sweet juice, allowing a very sweet wine to be made. The famous French wine Sauternes is made with the help of Botrytis cinerea. < top >

BREATHE

What a wine is supposed to do if you leave the bottle open for a bit before serving. This at least gives time for off-flavors (nowadays very uncommon) to dissipate, but the interface between the wind and air is so small (the bottleneck) that this can make a little difference. If the wine needs aeration (because it is so young and taut, for instance) slosh it into a decanter of jug. < top >

BUTTERY

The sort of richness (and color) acquired by mature Chardonnay, traditionally associated with Merursault. < top >

CRISP

A complimentary term for a white wine with refreshing acidity. < top >

LEGS

The colorless streams left on the inside of a wine glass after a relatively alcoholic wine, more than 12 percent, has been swirled. Often erroneously thought to be glycerol, they are sometimes called tears. < top >

LIGHT

The opposite of full bodied and not a pejorative term for wines that are meant to be delicate, such as many dry whites and some reds destined for youthful consumption. < top >

MATURITY

That period is a wines development after its youth and before its starts to decline. It can be after three years or after three decades, depending on the wind, "Mature" is a complimentary term, as opposed to "old" or "faded", which are criticisms. < top >

NOSE

The nose of wine is its bouquet or aroma, depending on its state of maturity. It is the flavor you can smell. You nose a wine when you consciously smell it. < top >

TANNIN

Tannin is a group of beneficial compounds in wine that come mainly from the grape's skins and seeds. Tannin gives wine structure and because it acts as a natural preservative, allows wine to age. Normally, tannin is not so much tasted as it is sensed. However, in a young wine, especially if the grapes have been picked under ripe, the tannin can cause the wine to taste excessively dry and astringent. < top >

VARIETAL

A type of grape variety. Chardonnay, merlot, riesling, etc. are all varietals. A varietal wine is an American term is named after the predominant grape variety from which it was made. This in contrast to generic wines, named after a wine region and, supposedly, style. Thus there used to be in Britain , and still are in America and Australia , wines labeled Burgundy, Claret, and even Sauterne (no "s" on the end) because they are made (dimly) in the reflection of those regions style. < top >

VINTAGE

Either the harvest, or the year of the harvest. < top >

 

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