How many times have you found yourself at a business dinner, with friends or as a guests at a wine tasting and not finding the right words to avoid embarassing moment?
Faced with phrases such as, “This wine is very structured”; “crisp bouquet!”; “A wine that perfectly describes terroir” etc., silences, smiles of approval and eyes lost in the void, at the sound of adjectives and arduous phrases often used by sommeliers or would-be sommeliers (present in all companies!) in describing wines and glasses.
In order to take your first steps into the world of “wine vocabulary” and understand the terms that until now you have always listened passively and without full and real understanding, here are some small suggestions: a real Dictionary in Sips to talk about wine.
We’ll start with some terms to describe different styles of wine, and end with a focus on terminology suitable for white wines.
It is important to know that a wine can be described and tasted, thanks to a long and complex study, through visual, olfactory and gustatory examination.
In any case, there are foolproof phrases and adjectives that can ease the awkwardness at the table and make you look like a connoisseur.
That said, let’s turn to our “Dictionary in Sips” with some basic terms.
Body, defined by how heavy and rich a wine tastes. It is a combination of several factors: grape variety, alcohol content, and even level of sweetness.
Tannin, represents one of the components of wine, it is responsible for the astringent sensation. It is found in the skins and grape seeds and in the wood of barrels used for maturation or aging. Over time, the substances contained in tannin oxidize and turn from yellow to brown red, giving color to the wine.
DOC, an acronym that stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, represents the link between the wine and its territory of origin. In fact, it identifies the area or region where the grapes of a particular variety of wine are grown and classifies, according to current regulations, its quality characteristics. DOC-labeled wines can be put on the market only after thorough chemical and sensory analysis.
DOCG, an acronym for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita: this designation identifies the geographical origin of a highly prized wine that has already been able to boast the DOC label for at least 10 years. The difference between a DOC and DOCG wine lies essentially in the more stringent requirements regarding chemical-organoleptic controls.
Terroir, this term indicates the relationship that binds wine to the characteristics of the microclimate and soil in which it is grown. Therefore, a wine that describes terroir will be a wine that claims its provenance.
Cuvée, is the result of blending various wines of different origins and vintages, usually the basis of classic method sparkling wines, but not only. An example is our Cuvée Federico from the Gaudis line: a sparkling wine blend of Chardonnay and Catarratto.
Full-bodied, is said of a wine rich in alcohol and dry extract where flavor and color are structurally in harmony with each other. An example of a full-bodied wine is definitely our Nero D’Avola from the Gaudis line.
Fruity, is a rather common term in the description of wines, whether white or red, denoted precisely by the scent of fruity notes. Generally, white fruit scents are present in white wines, while red fruit scents will be in red wines. To be more accurate, usually younger wines present aromas of fresh fruit, while older wines give off notes of dried fruit or jam. To give a practical example, our Grillo from the Sicilian Vibes line, presents notes of yellow pulp fruit, while Nerello Mascalese also from the Sicilian Vibes line, presents notes of currants and cherries.
Acidity, a fundamental characteristic in wine, can be imagined almost as the spine of the wine itself! It is recognizable by the sensation of freshness that animates the mouth and causes both gum contraction and increased salivation. There are various levels of acidity: we will then have a wine that is flat, quite fresh, cool and finally acidic.
Astringent, a term that goes to define a wine with excessive tannins and acidity (unbalanced), with a rough taste that leads to an almost total feeling of dryness of the gums and oral cavity.
Soft, is said of a wine that releases a velvety sensation that makes it soft on the palate. Thus, smoothness is a very important sensory component in wine, crucial to its balance.
Our Dictionary in Sips continues with a focus on the most frequent terms used to describe white wine or sparkling wines.
Freshness, generally used for dry, light-bodied white wines that are pleasantly acidic or lively, gives the palate a sensation of freshness and causes prolonged salivation. Drinking a fresh wine gives a sensation similar to biting into a green apple.
Dry, indicates a wine that has less than 2gr/L of residual sugars, and therefore does not make its sweetness perceived on the palate.
Crisp, as if it were a firm fruit, not too ripe, is used to indicate a wine that release fresh, fruity and floral sensations. An example is our White Don Ros, which has hints of crisp yellow-fleshed fruit.
Easy drinking, such is defined as a wine that is not particularly demanding to drink, flowing and does not possess a high alcohol content.
Persistent, such is a wine whose flavors last for long on the palate.
Complex, a wine can be said to be so when it has a bouquet composed of a multiplicity of aromas.
Savory, meaning a wine rich in acidity and mineral salts.
Perlage, means the rows of carbon dioxide bubbles that develop in sparkling wines when they are poured.
Bread crust, this term is used to describe the presence of aromas reminiscent of bread crust in wine. Often present in Chardonnay and more mature sparkling wines. Toasted bread crust notes can develop slowly over the years during bottle aging, after frothing. An example is our Cuvée Federico, with a delicate straw-yellow color with green reflections, numerous perlage and good persistence. It presents a lively and fine bouquet of citrus and Mediterranean scrub, accompanied by hints of bread crust and hazelnuts.
Have you ever heard of these terms? Did you know their meaning?
Thanks to this short dictionary, from now on, you too can use the correct terminology to impress your diners and no longer feel excluded (at least in part) from conversations about wine.
Do not forget that this is not the end of the story, there is still a universe to be discovered and we will slowly accompany you in the discovery.
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