Wine Terms Glossary

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Acidity:  Naturally present in grapes; gives red wine an appetising grip and whites a refreshing tang.  Too much can make a wine seem sharp, but too little and it will be flabby.

Aging: Essential for fine wines and for softening many everyday reds.  May take place in vat, barrel or bottle, and may last for months or years. It has a mellowing affect on wine.

Alcohol:  Alcohol is found in all wines, but levels vary from as little as 7% for some Rieslings, 10% for a Hunter Semillon, to maybe 15% or higher for a rich, ripe Shiraz, and higher for fortifieds.   Alcohol balances other flavours in the wine.

Alcoholic content:  Alcoholic strength, sometimes expressed in degrees, equivalent to the percentage of alcohol in the total volume.

Alcoholic fermentation: Biochemical process whereby yeasts. natural or added, convert the grape sugars into alcohol, transforming grape juice into wine. It normally stops when all the sugar has been converted or when the alcohol level reaches about 15%.

Aromatic: All wines have an aroma, but an aromatic wine is particularly pungent or spicy.

Balance: The relationship between all the elements in a wine - sweetness, acidity, tannin, alcohol, fruit and body. An unbalanced wine will taste as though it is lacking something.

Barrel Aging: Time spent in wood, normally oak and normally 225 litre barrels  (also known as barriques ).  The wine takes on vanilla and cinnamon flavours from the wood, becomes deeper in colour, is naturally clarified and its tannins softened. The process prepares a wine for bottle aging, where it will continue to gain complexity. 

Barrel fermentation:  Oak barrels may be used for fermentation instead of stainless steel to give a rich, oaky flavour to the wine.

Basket press: Traditional basket presses delicately extract the juice from the skins without breaking the grape seeds and over extracting the harsh tannins from the skins.

Blend: A wine made from two or more varieties, or from several wines of the same variety to maintain a consistent style or increase quality. The wines can also be of different origin, styles or age.  Many grapes need to have their weaknesses balanced by complementary varieties.

Budbreak/burst: Period when the first shoots emerge form the vine buds in spring. Marks the end of the vines dormant period during the winter.

Canopy management: Adjustments to alter the exposure of a vine's fruit and leaves to the sun, to improve quality, increase yield and help control disease.

Chewy: A wine with a lot of tannin and strong flavour.

Claret: English term for red Bordeaux wines, taken from the French word clairet, which was traditionally used to describe a lighter style of Bordeaux.

Clarification: Term covering any wine making process, such as filtering or fining, that involves the removal of solid matter either from must or the wine.

Clone: Propagating vines by taking cuttings produces clones of the original plant.

Complex: A wine that has layer upon layer of flavours.

Concentration: The intensity and focus of flavour in a wine.

Crush: Another word for vintage. It can also mean the quality of grapes crushed. In Australia, this is measured in tonnes per hectare.

Domaine: A wine estate.

Dusty: A dry, slightly earthy taste sometimes found in reds. Can be very attractive if combined with good fruit.

Earthy: A smell and taste of damp earth - appealing in some red wines.

Enologist: Wine scientist or technician.

Fat: A wine that is full bodied and unctuous. 

Filtering: Removal of yeasts, solids and any impurities from a wine before bottling.

Fresh: A young wine with lively fruit flavours and good acidity.

Lees: Coarse sediment - dried yeasts etc, thrown by wine in a cask and left behind after racking. Some wines stay on lees for as long as possible to take on extra flavour .

Length: This is the flavour that persists in the mouth after swallowing or tasting. A flavour that continues or even improves for some time after the wine is gone is a mark of quality.

Must: The mixture of grape juice, skins, pips and pulp produced after crushing, but prior to completion of fermentation, which will eventually become wine.

Old vines: Old vines can give more concentrated , intensely flavoured wine.  Australia has some of the oldest vines in the world, at over 150 years.

Oxidation: Over-exposure of wine to air.

Powerful:  A wine with plenty of everything, especially alcohol. 

Racking: Gradual clarification of a quality wine as part of the maturation process. 

Residual sugar: Sugar left over in the wine after fermentation is complete. A perceptible level of residual sugar makes the wine taste sweet.

Ripe: A wine made from well ripened grapes has good fruit flavour. Unripe wines can taste green and stalky. 

Single Vineyard: Wines with real individuality tend to be made using grapes from just one vineyard.

Structure:  Refers to a wine with a well developed backbone of acid and tannin, but enough fruit to stand up to it.

Tannin: This is the stuff in red wines that stains your teeth and dries your mouth, but in the right amounts can do marvellous things to the flavour and texture of the wine.  The tannins soften with time, and is essential for a wines long term aging.

Terroir:  The concept of a wine that is an expression of where it comes from. It has developed from the French term used to denote the combination of soil, climate and exposure to the sun; the natural physical environment of the wine.

Veraison: French term for the change of colour of grapes as they ripen.

Vintage: The years grape harvest, also used to describe the wine of a single year.

Weight or Body: Describes the different impressions of weight and size wines give in the mouth.

Yeast: Organism which, in the wine making process, causes grape juice to ferment. 

Yield: Perhaps the most important factor in determining the quality of a wine. The yield is the amount of fruit, and ultimately wine, produced from a vineyard. The lower the quantity of grapes each vine is allowed to produce, the more intense the juice in the grapes and the flavours in the wine will be.

Zone: As part of the classification system for Australian wine many of its traditional wine areas have been incorporated into zones, regions and sub-regions. 
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