Basic Wine Terms, wine vocabulary, glossary of wine terminology, wine dictionary & guide, wine 101


We are going to talk about wine terms. Today I’m with two great Masters of Wine. To go over these terms it’s a full course on wine. It’s true. A valuable course. A valuable course which you are planning to give away. Remind me why that’s a good idea? I remind you everyday… Two Masters of Wine sitting here with a very serious student of wine, drinking wine which is an assault on our liver and giving away this amazing content for free. Remind me again why we are doing this? Because people will reward. This Wine Term video will be made in 2 parts. Part 1 deals with basic wine terms and Part 2 deals with professional wine terms. Terms reviewed in Part 1 won’t be repeated in Part 2. If you google with “wine tasting terms”, then you can get this information on the top. We will explain the terms in the order they are listed on this list. It may help you to refer to this list while you are watching our video. Not all of that information is accurate. So we’re going to give you better information than you can get from just googling the term. Of course it’s true. After all, he just said it. We’re two great Masters of Wine. The first one is “acidic”. The grape has acid in it. All wines are acidic. If you’ve got not enough acidity, the wine doesn’t taste that fresh and may not age as well. If a wine has too much acidity, it can taste very sharp and somewhat harsh. So if I say “acidic”, it is rather neutral to you? Somebody says that we’re tall. Is that a negative term? No. Somebody could say that we’re too tall. That would be a negative. Acidic, in and of itself in the context of wine is probably slightly negative in that people don’t talk about a wine being acidic unless they really mean too acidic. Unless our wine geeks and then they’re breaking the wine down. All wines are acid. If you have too much of it, the wine is sour, if you have enough, the wine is fresh, if you don’t, the wine can be called blowsy or flat How ripe the grapes you want to be, if you allow them to get to full sugar ripeness and full phenolic ripeness then sometimes because they now become sort of slightly
too ripe, you get lower acid levels, so then you will add acid to restore the balance. That’s called “acidulating” “Sour” is not neutral. “Sour” is negative. “Tart” can be negative. Probably for most people “tart” is negative. “Alcoholic”? Obviously making wine, you’re fermenting freshly gathered and freshly crushed grapes. The sugar in the grapes converted to carbon dioxide, heat and alcohol. We want the alcohol. A wine that has too much alcohol for the fruit, for the body, for the structure is considered alcoholic. Is it a neutral or negative? “Alcoholic” is slightly negative. Now what alcohol gives you, it can give sweetness in lower levels, it gives body and makes the wine feel richer and rounder in your mouth and then as levels creep up and we vary in terms of our sensitivity to this It can give heat, particularly it can give you this burn in the back of your throat that Peter was talking about. The wine comes out and if I’m tasting that heat from the alcohol, I simply asked for an ice bucket. Yes, ice bucket for the red wine. And I chill the red wine down and all of a sudden, the perception of the alcohol, the perception of the heat goes down and my perception of the fruitiness of the wine goes up and it makes me much happier. You know I’ve had that happen to me a few times in restaurants. You go in there, they serve the wine at quote unquote room temperature which was about 22-23 degrees Celsius in some of these restaurants and you say to them “You know what? Bring me an ice bucket.” And then the somm will come over and say “Sir, red wine is supposed to be drunk at room temperature.” and tell them “You know what? You know, I’m really sorry.” “And I defer to your knowledge.” “But you know I’m the customer.” “Just humor me, OK. Bring me one, bring me an ice bucket.” Yes, drink it in any temperature that you want. What is “aftertaste”? Generally if you’ve got pleasant flavors and they persist a longer period of time, you’re getting more pleasure out of the wine and that’s a positive thing. If on the other hand you’ve got as Peter would say “a crappy wine”, if you’ve got a wine that has bad flavors on it, sometimes those bad flavors can persist a very long time and have a very long finish and a long aftertaste but that’s a terrible thing because you’re thinking “My g_d, how can I get this flavor out of my mouth?” So Patrick is a stronger guy than me. As soon as I’ve got the bad flavors in my mouth, I don’t put it there and leave it there for long enough to get “aftertaste”. I get done with it. Meaning he’s spitting it out. In French, they call it “caudalie”. And when I learned the term, I tried to count how long it lasts. The geeks time it in seconds. How many seconds of “aftertaste”? It is possible to quantify it. Sure. I’m really serious. Guys sit there with stopwatches, the real geeks. My professors, they told me “Don’t do
that, nobody does it.” No, they were wrong. Yeah, I was right!! Could you explain the difference between “aroma” and “bouquet”? It’s not a standard definition but it’s more generally accepted than anything else. “Aroma” is the sensations on the nose before fermentation, even the aroma during fermentation. After that’s all settled and you’re bottling the wine or whatever it might be even before when it’s a fully made wine then it changes to bouquet more particularly when it’s aged. But sometimes aroma includes both of the meanings. Yes, the vast majority of people view them as the same. Yes. And that the simple differentiation is that young wines are all aroma and when the wine starts to lose some of those primary fruit characteristics and take on other things like cedar, etc., that’s called bouquet. Do you want some more sparkling wine? No? Patrick doesn’t want more. So it’s all yours. Thank you. What is “balanced”? In white wines on one hand of your equation, you’ve got fruit and sweetness and on the other side of the equation, you’ve got acidity. And that’s where you have balance come in. For oaked white wines or red wines, tannins come into play. So then we have sweetness and fruit on one side of the equation, and also alcohol comes in onto that side of the equation being balanced by acidity and and tannins. And so we’re looking for a balance where the wine feels pleasant in our mouth and one element doesn’t necessarily dominate everything else. At any quality level and at any complexity level there is a balance that maximizes the pleasure whatever that level may be. Is the balance the same or a similar thing with a structure? No. Structure is the backbone, the grip, whatever it might be of the wine. Structure is an element of balance but it is not the equivalent of balance. What is “big”? “Big” is something that’s not small. Really? So it can have different connotations and generally when we say that a wine is “big”, it’s a wine that has a high alcohol level it is a high level of body and generally has a fairly high level of tannins as well. They may not be our favorite types. There are people that love big wines. They generally are not that sensitive to the bitterness from the tannins. And then there’s a subset of wine a**hole and the wine a**holes are generally white males that have more money than they do smarts and they’re looking for expensive bottles of red wine that have too much alcohol and too much
oak saying “Hohoho, that’s big!” “Hoho, that’s really big!!” Even within the context of this enormous wine which I personally don’t want to drink there’s a balance there that nothing is edgy. In a marketing world you give the consumer what they want. We as seriously dedicated wine guys, we’ve basically been passionate about wine our whole lives. We are kind of evangelical about wine. We feel not so much to give the consumer
what they want. We understand how important that is. But we would also like to inject an element there of teaching the consumer what it should be and that blockbuster is not necessarily correct and if they could tone down their likes and dislikes to the point where they start to recognize subtlety and complexity and elegance in a wine maybe the overall perception and enjoyment would be greater. Other than, “big” is “big”. Is “big” the same definition with “bold”? Bold? No. I mean it’s an element of it. “Big” is just size. “Bold” is, let’s take a human being for example. You can be big but not bold. You can be little and pushy taking chances, asserting yourself. So that’s bold. So you can have a very big wine that’s not that assertive. It’s a combination “big” and “bold”. Many Petite Syrahs are bold. And so by calling a Petite Syrah a bold wine, it’s not a negative thing, right? Can be just descriptive in a positive way. On the other hand, if I have a feminine grape like Pinot Noir and I’m describing a Pinot Noir as a bold wine, I’m usually putting that in as a negative. Yes, I’m with you. What is “body”? There are some hot bodies and there’re some not so hot bodies. Body is like volume in the mouth. It’s not just the size and the tannin and the alcohol although those things are all components of it. It’s a little bit more subtle, the whole concept of body. Largely alcohol influenced by acid and tannin. As you said other elements are involved as well but largely those elements are giving you body. What does “dry” mean? “Dry” on wine would be the opposite not of “wet” but of “sweet”. Dry wine technically is a wine that is fermented to the point where all the fermentable sugar is consumed. So a dry wine has almost no sensation of any kind of sweetness. Unless it’s coming from the alcohol. Higher alcohol wines can give you
a sense of sweetness as can glycerol, So basically being “dry” is the opposite of being “sweet”. Exactly. What does “elegant” mean? An elegant wine would be a wine that does not have too much alcohol. It doesn’t have too much oak. It’s handled in a gentler way, tends to be more balanced, tends to have fresher acidity. It would be more of an Audrey Hepburn of wine than a Mae West of wine. I love Audrey Hepburn. Is being “fine” the same as being “elegant” ? An elegant wine might not necessarily be fine. Where a fine applies to quality, it’s probably possible to find a really elegant wine but you just not happy with the quality. Think of dining, right? So there’s fine dining. So fine dining is a restaurant with white linen tablecloths, a very specific style of service, specific style of food. New Orleans cuisine’s very fine but not necessarily elegant Right. When somebody asks me as a Master of Wine what’s my favorite wine and I tell them “fine” and then “free”. “Free” is my favorite flavor and especially if it’s fine wine. If you’re comparing non vintage champagnes from the various houses, they may all be fine but some more elegant than others. I see. No you don’t! Because nor do I. 5% of yours. OK. What does “fat” mean? It’s big, it’s broad, its fat, its high alcohol. It may have balance but that balance is on a knife edge of being to the point where it has barely enough acidity. It’s rather negative for wine
connoisseur. It depends upon the context. If a white wine goes through a malolactic fermentation particularly a riper wine, a riper Chardonnay that would become buttery and be fatter. you can also increase the fatness or the texture in the mouth of wine by having the wine this is usually with white wines it can happen with Reds but usually with white wines the wines sit on those yeast cells, the lies and that can give a waxiness and increase the fatness of the middle palate. Oh, and then we all get fat when we eat, when we drink wine and we don’t watch how often we drink the wine, that stimulates our appetite, food tastes
better, we eat more food and we get fat. This is a reason why I explained to Peter today that I opened wine which doesn’t pair… This is the dumbest story you ever heard. I really wanted to have a bottle of wine for my food but I didn’t want to stimulate my appetite. He opened sh_t wine. So he wouldn’t drink a lot of it. That is one technique. I applaud it. I must admit that that’s not something that I can get to. I open sh_t wine because I didn’t want to drink a lot? You don’t want to drink a lot? I mean life’s too short to drink bad wine for me. So why open sh_t wine if you don’t want to drink? Everybody’s got some sh_t wine in their cellars. It’s a good way to get rid of sh_t wine as well. That is true. Otherwise I cannot ever
open the sh_t wine. We get rid of the shit wine by pouring it in the toilet cistern because the wine is paid for and the water not. What is “heavy”? A wine that either has too much alcohol, too much ripe tannin. “This wine is really big” would be, for somebody who likes those kind of wine
that would be a positive thing, somebody who doesn’t like those wines, it’s too much of everything, too much too much oak too much alcohol, too much too much! What is “hollow”? When you put the wine in your mouth, there’s an entry, a middle and a finish. What “hollow” implies is that the entry is not bad and then it vanishes in the middle, or that the middle is very small and then it finishes. There are a number of reasons. One of them can be that the fruit is just simply not enough. Also, one of the things that can happen is, if the wine has got a great deal of structure, it can sometimes dumb down the fruit during certain phases of the wine’s life and during that time whilst the wine has some potential, at certain points in its life it tastes hollow but essentially what it means is like a doughnut, the middle is missing. So probably closed wine can taste the hollow. Yes, permission to medically geek out here. Many of the naturally occurring poisons are bitter that shuts our flavor sensors down when you get bitterness. Any positive flavors that are there you don’t sense. The bitterness just shuts things down. So if you have a wine that has too much tannin, you’re not going to taste the underlying fruit. Really? Si, senor! What does “nose” mean? Are you implying that I have a big nose? You named it “beak”, right? Yes. In evaluating a wine we nose the wine using it as a verb. Swirl it, put your nose in, take a sniff what are the aromas that you’re getting
from the wine and then you taste it trying to confirm them on the palate. So basically the the aromatics that you pick up by smelling the wine. The catch-all-term combining bouquet and aroma. Particularly as a as a consumer you’re in a restaurant, does it smell like vinegar? Does it smell like dirty socks? Does it smell oxidized? Nutty, sweaty armpit… So if you’re getting anything that you don’t like, you let the server know though… You let the server nose. Say, you smell this shit, I’m smelling it. But sometimes you don’t pick up the fault immediately. sometimes it takes a little while for that to come out. So you’re swirling the wine initially for faults and then part of the enjoyment, much of taste is smell, so if you hold your nose and you swallow, you’re not going to pick up many of the flavors. In that case what can I say? If the the waiter doesn’t recognize it was
a faulty wine? You simply ask the waiter to remove the bottle. And either to bring you another bottle or to bring you back the wine list. And if the waiter has been halfway properly trained, or if it’s a halfway decent restaurant they will do that, they will apologize and they will do that. And the reason that they will do that is they simply take that bottle of wine to the back, put the cork in it and keep it for the supplier because it unfortunately in the US seems to be the responsibility of the supplier to make good on any bottle that was sent back from the table. So it doesn’t cost the restaurant anything and therefore to get involved in a some kind of an argument with the diner is just not smart! The waiter comes to your table, this happens in France all the time (psst) and as pop it, they sniff the cork very quickly and though they don’t say anything to you. So they’re sniffing the cork, does it smell like vinegar? Does it
smell like TCA which is a sweaty armpit or moldy basement characteristic what’s going on and then they leave it up to the consumer. A wine should never smell like a moldy basement, they should never smell like rat urine
or sweaty armpits or… You know I get back bottles, not all the time, but I get back a lot of bottles there’s nothing wrong with them. On the other side of the coin as a consumer who goes to many restaurants, I’ve been to restaurants where I found faults in wine and then somebody is giving me sh_t about it. And then usually I don’t come right out I say I’ll take another taste and say “give me a minute or two” or I tasted the wine and said “I’m sorry but I think there may be a problem with the wine” “and it tastes a little…” I don’t comment and tell them I’m a Master Wine unless somebody’s being an a**hole. And then and they say X, Y & Z and then I say well I happen to be a Master of Wine and I do think that it’s corked or I do think that it’s volatile. So to get back to the concept of nose, nose is not a value judgment. It’s neither good nor bad. Nose is all the sensations that you experience olfactorily, on their olfactory senses. Simple is that. And again people vary in terms of their threshold. So there’s some people who can’t smell cork or people who can’t smell, you know, in some ways it’s a blessing. For somebody’s got a low threshold that they can smell that TCA characteristic, again that’s a the moldy basement, the sweaty socks that just takes the enjoyment completely out of drinking a bottle of wine. I have once this kind of experience. I opened a bottle of Lynch Bages and it was severely corked and I couldn’t drink it but a friend of mine, he loved the label and he drank it up. We have a colleague of ours who has a very high threshold. So he can’t taste corked wines and he relies upon other people to pick out corked wine. So I mean personally I’ve got a low threshold which is not a good thing because there are wines that have some cork characteristic and I just can’t drink them. The other thing that now with this explosion of the natural wine phenomenon are finding increasing numbers of wines that are refermenting in the bottle. And the wines taste effervescent. It’s one thing to get a sparkling wine that’s
effervescent but if you get a red wine that tastes fizzy to you that’s a problem with the wine. The wine should go back. Almost done. You are running out of juice? What does “oxidized” mean? Helicopters are the enemy of recording, oxygen is the enemy of wine! Could you explain about the difference between oxidized and oxidative? They’re related and oxidized wine tends to be lacking… Oxygen robs the wine of fruit and it can give the smell and taste of vinegar or nail polish remover and in whites or reds and can also give a an unpleasant nuttiness on the finish in red wines. So it’s an unpleasant term. It’s an unpleasant term unless you’re dealing with very specific styles of wine that were made that way purposefully. Usually “oxidized” is a negative term. And “oxidative”? You can have oxidative handling of red wines when you expose the wines to oxygen where you either pump or punch down where you’re punching down this cap of fermenting grape skins and yeast cells or you can pump over we’re trying to get oxygen into the wine as it ferments to try to soften the red wine up. If you overdo it, you get an oxidized wine. We use an oxidative style of wine making. And certain wine styles are oxidative in style. Sherry for example, Madeira. What does “spicy” mean? The source of spiciness in wine is, say, probably three things. It’s the grape itself, it’s the way that the grape has been made, and it could be also the vintage. It took me years for me to understand what “spicy” means because there are so many different kinds of spices. It’s not always a very helpful term. It’s not precise enough. So for example if you smell this wine and if you say spicy, then it works. All depends upon how specific one’s going to be. Gewurtztraminer is the classic white
that’s referred to as spicy… Syrah? Syrah can have black and white pepper characteristics. Yes. What does “toasty” mean? “Toasty”, as opposed to “toasted”, if you drink too much wine you get toasted. If you’re not quite there you’re feeling a bit toasty it usually, not always, usually pertains to oak and so oak barrels can have different levels of toast, So literally they take an oak barrel and they put fire in it and they toast the wood so those that toasting can give you flavor characteristics you can get toasty characteristics as well and in wines especially white wines with age, older Chablis which is Chardonnay that hasn’t had oak influence with sufficient age can taste as if it has had oak characteristic. As champagne spends quite a lot of time on the lies, you know, a few years of bottle age, five or six years of bottle age that sort of autolytic character somehow or other seems to tip into the realm of toastiness. More so with the bottle age and in my own experience more so with the Blanc de Blanc. Blanc de Blancs being 100% Chardonnay. So Blanc de Blanc in bottle
aging gets toastiness. Yes, for sure. So I hope you enjoyed our explanation and if you want to get to know how we use these terms in our actual description about wine, then you can check it in many other videos of ours. Hasta la vista(see you again)!

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