Wine Vocabulary: 12 Phrases used by wine people

Wine Vocabulary: 12 Phrases used by wine people

Dec 15, 2023Eden Hargreaves

Most people know what they like to drink but when faced with an industry professional asking what exactly it is they like about that wine, for a seasoned wine drinker it’s a ‘no-sweat’ situation, but for a lot of people it can make one feel a little on the inadequate side. Not to worry we have broken down these ‘terms’ into easy-to-understand meanings.

1. Complex: This refers to the how the wine expresses itself through its aromas, and flavours and how they interact with each other on the palate. When tasting the wine, if you can list off a range of aromas and flavours that work well with each other, the wine is said have complexity (which is often linked with quality).

2. Corked: Refers to a fault that has specifically occurred in that wine, resulting in the off-putting smells of mildew or wet cardboard that repress the wines naturally fruity flavours. Corked doesn’t refer to in anyway any physical bits of cork that happen to land in your glass. Read more about corked wine here.

3. Full bodied: simply put the term refers to how the wine feels in the mouth. Higher acidic wines tend to be on the lighter end, while oaked, warm-climate wines such as Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon would be on the fuller end. Factors such as the alcohol content, tannins and flavour intensity all support a sense of body, while high acidotic levels make the wine seem lighter.

4. First growth: according to the classifications in Bordeaux, the term ‘first growth’ refers to the top-ranked Chateaux in region. In the Medoc sub-region, ‘first growth’ is the reference made to one of the top five Chateaux which were rank with this classification as far back as 1855. The wines from these Chateaux are often referred to by the term ‘Premier Cru’. Though this phrase is not to be confused with the ‘premier cru’ term from Burgundy, which is used to refer to the land rather than a particular producer.

5. Tannins: like the tannins found in black tea that make it bitter, the tannins in wine come from the skins of the grapes. The presence of tannins in the wine depends on the amount of grape skin contact which occurred during the wine making.

6. Acidity: refers to the fresh, tart and sour elements of the wine. All of which are assessed in relation to how well the acidity balances out the sweetness and bitter components, such as the tannins.

7. Grand vin: A French term used by producers on their wine bottle labels to signify they consider the wine to be the best they produce. However, while the wine may be wonderful to drink, the term is not regulated. These wines tend to attract a higher price tag, though one is not guaranteed that the wines is grand, great or good.

8. Natural wine: No strict definition of this term exists, but rather a general overall description used to describe wines produced with little or no involvement of man-made chemicals.

9. Terroir: a term that refers to the natural environment where grapes are grown, however the term is quite complex to explain as it refers to many different factors, all of which need to considered. It incorporates everything that makes an area unique such as it’s soil, the climate, and the topography of the land. All these factors together will determine the quality of the wine produced in that area.

10. Vegan wines: are made without the use of animal-derived products which are sometimes used for 'fining' (clarifying) wine. Discover more about vegan wines here.

11. Organic wines: a term given to wines produced following the laws that govern the ‘certified organic’ standards. Generally, to produce an organic wine, the strict requirements, such as those of the use of pesticides, land management, preservations and storage have been adhered to. Discover more about organic wines here.

12. Biodynamic wines: like an organic farm, biodynamic farming also takes place without the use of man-made chemicals. It also incorporated other ideas about the vineyard, such as it is an entire ecosystem, and will consider the lunar cycles and astrological influences. Discover more about biodynamic wines here.

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