How well do you know your wine terminology?
From aroma to complexity, minerality and even tannins, understanding wine jargon can be hard at the best of times. It can feel like you need an encyclopaedia, never mind a dictionary to get through it. Until now that is.
Wine lovers can all admit that drinking wine is the easiest part. But, understanding all those wine terms and finding the right wine for your tastebuds can prove to be the challenge – so much so, that you might need another glass of wine to get you through it!
Thankfully, the masterminds behind the marvellous drop, Dan Murphy’s, have saved the day yet again.
Launching their Decoded Wine Awards earlier this year, the team at Dan Murphy’s poured together a panel to blind taste test over 1000 wines (best job ever!) and chose winning drops based on what their customers would love. The winning wine verdicts were made using words the everyday wine lovers would understand.
To help you bust the jargon next time you’re picking a wine, the panel has put together and decoded the most common winemaking and tasting note terminology.
Head of Fine Wine at Dan Murphy’s, Andrew Shedden says that “wine jargon like ‘bouquet’, ‘primary flavours’ and ‘minerality’ do little to explain the taste of a wine unless you’re an expert.”
“We wanted to make great wines more approachable. The Decoded Wine Awards are for wine lovers, not experts,” he added.
So, to help you comprehend all that stuffy wine terminology or jargon next time you’re picking a drop, Dan Murphy’s has kindly put together and decoded the most common winemaking and tasting note terms:
Hunter and Bligh’s Wine Dictionary:
A wine that tastes tart or zesty, or that leaves the inside of your mouth tingly and watering, has high acidity. Other words for acidity include bright, crisp, crunchy and racy.
This is how long a wine has been in its bottle for. When a wine is described as young, it means it’s only been in its bottle for a year or so. Old wine, on the other hand, can mean anything from five to 50 years in the bottle.
Aroma or Bouquet –
Pour a bit of wine into a glass, hover your nose around the glass and give it a good, long sniff. In wine terms, those smells you’re getting are known as either aromas (if the wine is young) or the bouquet (if the wine has been aged).
A wine is balanced when all the different components work in harmony. The key components that should be in balance are alcohol, acidity, tannin, sweetness and fruit.
Imagine your tongue is a set of scales, then take a sip of wine. How heavy does it feel in your mouth? When we use the term body, we’re talking about a wine’s weight and fullness. Shiraz is an example of a full-bodied red, and Chardonnay is an example of a full-bodied white.
Like people, wines can be complex. An easy way to tell is to monitor whether your wine changes in aroma and flavour the more you sniff and sip it. The more it changes, the more complex it is.
Dry and Sweet –
In the wine world, sweet, not wet, is the opposite of dry. If a wine is dry, it means all the grape sugar was converted into alcohol during fermentation. If it’s sweet, it means there was some grape sugar left over. This is why sweet wines are often lower in alcohol.
Fruit is sometimes used as another word for grapes, but it’s also used to describe the flavours in a wine. Fruit-forward wines smell and taste like sweet fruits. Savoury wines smell like bitter or tart fruits, or even herbs and vegetables like oregano or capsicum.
If you imagine what it would taste and feel like to lick wet stones, you get an idea of what it means when a wine is described as minerally. Other words might be chalk, flint, slate, gunpowder or oyster shells.
Mouthfeel is how a wine feels in your mouth. If you’re left with a furry sensation, then that wine’s mouthfeel could be described as furry. Other descriptors could be rough, smooth or velvety.
Wine that is aged in oak barrels absorbs the flavours and aromas of the oak barrel itself. Depending on the age and the type of oak, the flavours can be toasty, vanilla, baking spices, caramel or woody.
Primary and Secondary flavours –
Primary flavours are the flavours of the grape, whereas secondary flavours are the results of winemaking techniques such as barrel ageing (oak flavours).
Skin contact –
The process where grape juice is left to steep in grape skins to absorb their colour and flavours.
A vague term that implies the fruit, alcohol, acidity and tannins in a wine are nice and balanced.
Also called preservative 220, sulphites (or sulphur dioxide) is the ingredient that’s added to a wine to keep it fresh.
If you’ve ever let a black tea bag steep for too long, you’ll have an idea of what tannins taste like. Tannins are bitter-tasting compounds that come from grape skins, seeds and stems. Red wines generally have more tannins because of their extended contact with skins and seeds during maceration.
A French term that refers to the characteristics of a vineyard site and how they affect the development and flavour of grapes. This includes climate, soil types, the direction of the sun, whether there’s a sea breeze, and so on.
The year in which the grapes were grown. Wines that are made with a blend of grapes from different seasons are called non-vintage wines. Vintage can also refer to a winemaking season.
A wine that is usually bottled and sold within a year of its vintage. Wines meant to be drunk “young” are noted for their fresh and crisp flavours, this is often the case for some white wines and most rosé wines.
Want to learn more about wine? You’ve come to the right place! Learn more about what makes a vegan wine, vegan here, or, if you’re looking for a guide to Italian wines, we’ve got six drops that will send you on a savoury trip!