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Explaining common wine jargon

Oct 30 2018

As the title suggests, for many of us, wine-speak can feel like a completely different language. You might think industry slang exists merely to romanticise the act of wine drinking, but if you understand it, it serves a real purpose. It seeks to unlock a spectrum of sensory expectations before you have even poured a single glass. Think of it like reading the blurb of a book. We at sipp have picked out some common wine jargon to look out for and explain JUST what they might mean for your wine!


Acidity:

Acidity is found in all grapes and is important for retaining freshness in wine. A useful (and a somewhat gross!) way to measure a wine's acidity is the extent to which it makes you salivate. A wine with high levels of acidity might be described as tangy, zesty and fresh.


Balance:

Much like a seesaw, this describes the extent to which the different elements of the wine work together, like acidity, alcohol, tannin and body.


Body:

How does the wine feel in your mouth? If it feels like cream it would be described as full-bodied, but if it is more like skimmed milk it would be described as light-bodied.


Complexity:

Essentially, the higher the number of flavours you can detect in a wine, the more complex it is, particularly if coming from different flavour groups such as fruity and spicy.


Dry:

No, not like the Sahara. Dry, in wine-speak is used to describe wines with low residual sugar. This doesn’t mean they have to lack sweetness, but the sweetness will more likely be coming from fruit or other elements.


Legs:

Now this is a little controversial in the wine world as some don’t believe wine has ‘legs’ at all. For those that do, legs are the traces of liquid that stick to the side of your glass, these indicate high alcohol or high levels of residual sugar.


Length:

Simples;  how long after tasting the wine does the taste linger in your mouth, the longer the finish, generally the better the quality of the wine.


Minerality:

To put it simply, minerality refers to chalky, stoney, slate or steel like elements detected in wine. This can sometimes be referred to as the taste of the terroir.


Sweet:

Sugar occurs naturally in grapes, however, most of it is lost in the fermentation process. Sweet wines occur where residual sugar remains after fermentation and this can be achieved through a few methods.


Tannin:

This applies almost exclusively to red wines. Tannin comes from the skin of the grape and gives a wine structure and body. A wine with high tannin might feel grippy in the mouth, and can sometimes be detected as bitter on the palate.


Terroir:

There is no true translation for this French word, but essentially it relates to the environment in which the grapes are cultivated, it encompasses place, origin, soil, climate, altitude and aspect.


Vintage:

Simply the year the grapes were harvested, the quality of a vintage is almost completely dependent on climatic conditions. Vintage is most important for fine wine, affecting both quality and price!

So there we have it, wine jargon (hopefully), simplified!

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