Wine lovers have been around for centuries, so it’s only natural that the legions of wine lovers have built a specialized set of terms and phrases to discuss them. You’ll find a list of my favorite of these below, some of which are basic and some are just fun.
Acidity: This is an occurring component of every wine that happens naturally; it’s the level of perceived sharpness, as well as a key element to a wine’s longevity and balance.
Aroma: Really? You don’t know what aroma is? That’s okay, I slept through my sophomore vocabulary class in high school, too. In terms of wine, at least, the aroma means the same thing it does for anything else, with the added bonus that people look far more informed if they refer to a wine’s aroma or bouquet as opposed to its taste or smell.
Acescence: A sweet-and-sour tinge is sometimes described as acecsent when wine is concerned. Often, the term is also attached to a vague taste of vinegar in the wine.
Body: When we refer to a wine’s body, we’re talking about the apparent weight when it hits the mouth. (It has nothing to do with the shape of the glass the wine’s in.)
Breathing: After the wine’s out of the bottle and it starts interacting with air, it’s said to breathe.
Carbonic Maceration: This heavy, polysyllabic term is used to describe a fermentation process: the vat in which the wine ferments has an extra layer of carbon dioxide placed inside of it. The practice, popularized in France, softens red wines.
Cleanskin: In Australia, wine bottled without a commercial label, usually sold cheaply in bulk quantities.
Commercial wine: You’ve heard of Kendall Jackson, Franzia, and E & J Gallo, right? Those are all commercial wines: every wine is developed by a set formula every year and sold to millions.
Drip dickey: This is a trademark name for a drip cloth. I added it because it’s even harder to take the idea of one of these seriously with a name like that.
Dry: This is the opposite of sweet. That is, the higher the alcohol content, the dryer the wine.
Finish: A wine’s finish has to do with the way it tastes after it’s been swallowed. (We’d call it an after-taste, but we still have to feel special somehow.)
Fruit Wine: Grapes aren’t the only fruits that make wines. They just happen to be the most famous and, generally, the ones people drink the most. If a wine is made from a fruit other thann grapes, generally that fruit is included in its name. A lot of times honey or extra sugars are added to these, too.
Ice wine: these wines are made from frozen grapes, and tend to be sweeter than most conventional wines.
Jug wine: Jug wines are the cheapest table wines on the market, which makes them good for cooking and college parties.
Kosher wine: These wines are made specifically under the supervision of rabbis so they meet Jewish religious rules.
Methuselah: The Methuselah bottle size holds six liters’ (or eight regular bottles’) worth of wine. The name’s a little ironic, as Methuselah’s claim to fame is as the oldest person recorded in the Bible. He was 969 years old when he died. No matter how you do the math, I can’t work 6 liters into 969 units of anything.
Mulled wine: This is a spiced, heated wine that’s served as a punch.
Nebuchadnezzar: Some traditions hold that Nebuchadnezzar II, the king of Babylon who had the hanging gardens built and expelled the Jewish people, was also enourmously fat. It’s for this reason that a huge bottle was named after him. It holds 15 liters of wine.
Oenology: This is the proper word for what this course is about, and it does it a little better than this course does: oenology is the study of wine and how it’s made. There’s another word, zymology, that fits in: the latter is the study of fermentation itself.
Plonk: British for Jug wine. (And yet more proof that British English and American English are two totally different animals).
Punt: One of the weirdest of all wine terms, the punt is the part of a wine bottle that dips up at the bottom. Some people think that the punt’s deepness is in direct proportion of how good the wine is, and from what I can tell, that’s true: I drank a bottle of Sutter Home last night: the punt on that bottle was about as deep as a kid’s scraped knee.
Sweet: Used to describe the sugar content in wines.
Table wine: In the US, a table wine has to be between &% and 14% ABV to qualify. Otherwise it’s generally a term for the run-of-the-mill wines that you drink regularly.
Tasting flight: Refers to a selection of wines, usually between three and eight glasses, but sometimes as many as fifty, presented for the purpose of sampling and comparison.
Tannins: Described by Vinology as “the phenolic compounds in wines that leave a bitter, dry, and puckery feeling in the mouth.”
Vintage: The process of picking grapes and creating the finished product. A vintage wine is one made from grapes that were all, or primarily, grown and harvested in a single specified year.
Here are some useful abbreviations:
ABC – Anything but Chardonnay
ATTTB – Alcohol Tobacco Tax and trade Bureau
BOB – Buyer’s Own Brand
C.A. – Cooperativa Agricola: espanola pora “local cooperative”
C.S. – Italiano pora Cantina Sociale (see C.A.)
D.O. – D(issolved) O(xygen): I like this one because it’s just a spot off of “B.O.”, and the truth is that I’m really a twelve-year-old trapped in a grown man’s body. Truthfully, though, DO levels have to do with the oxidation levels in wine. Dominiacion D’origen, is a wine classification.
D.O.C. – Italiano pora D.O.
QPR – Q(uality P(rice) R(atio) looks like it should be a call abbreviation for a company on NASDAQ. This is fitting, considering that it has directly to do with a question of value vs. cost for a particular wine.
TBA – Trockenbeerenauslese; deutsche der dried berry selection. Really it’s a kind of German dessert wine.
VC – Espanol pora V(ina) C(omarcal). These letters indicate that the wine comes from a local winery, not Sutter Home.
VDL – Francais pour V(in) D(e) L(iquer,) or a sign that the bottle holds a fortified wine.
VDN -Vins doux naturels are a naturally fortified wine.
VDT – Italiano per V(ino) D(a) T(avola), which might be the fanciest way to describe cheap table wine known to man.