The Footballers’ Wines Tactics Guide to Wine Terminology Made Simple
“Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win”. So said Gary Lineker after losing to Germany in the 1990 World Cup Semi-Final. You’d be forgiven for thinking that wine was anything but simple. If you’ve ever looked at a bottle of wine, particularly from a more traditional producer, it’s tough to get much from the label. But a bit like San Marino’s defence, the terminology isn’t that hard to get round.
Here’s our list of wine terminology made simple.
Acidity is very important in the life and vitality of a wine. Too much will make wine too sharp (not sour, that’s a fault in the wine) and too little acidity will make a wine flat and dull with short lasting flavour.
The French Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée, a certification to certain wines. AOC wines, to be granted AOC status, must adhere to strict rules. An AOC wine must be produced in a consistent and traditional manner with grapes from specifically classified producers, in geographically designated areas.
Botrytis (Noble Rot)
Botrytis Cinerea is a grey fungus that can infect grapes. It requires moist conditions, and if the weather stays wet can form grey rot and wipe out crops. However, if drier conditions follow wet, the resultant grapes can become partially raisined. This form is known as Noble Rot and the wines made from these grapes can be particularly concentrated and sweet.
The amount of sugar (dosage) added to sparkling wines after the second fermentation dictates the sweetness levels. Brut refers to dry sparkling wines, more exactly fewer than 12g of sugar per litre dosage.
Champagne bottle size
In order from small to large (with number of bottles in brackets): Piccolo (1/4), Demi (1/2), Standard (1), Magnum (2), Jeroboam/Double Magnum (4), Rehoboam (6), Methuselah (8), Salmanazar (12), Balthazar (16), Nebuchadnezzar (20), Melchior (24), Solomon (26.66), Sovereign (33.33), Goliath/Primat (36), Melchizedek (40)
French word for castle. However château on the lable doesn’t necessarily mean the wines are bottled in a fine castle, some are merely a villa or purpose built winery.
The English term given to red Bordeaux wine.
A broad term referring to wine that has spoiled and is generally attirbuted to compounds, primarily TCA (Trichloroanisole) in the cork. TCA can also be found in wooden pallets and beams as well as corks so it is possible a wine with a screw top can be corked. A corked wine is NOT a wine with bits of cork in it from a disintegrated cork.
A Spanish term. For a red wine, it means that the wine must be aged for a minimum of 2 years (6 months of that in oak minimum) prior to release. For white wines it means the wine must have at least 1 year of ageing (with at least 6 months in oak0 prior to release.
A French wine term traditionally meaning “growth” but more often it is used to refer to a specifically named and legally defined vineyard or ensemble of vineyards and the grapes grown on it.
The process of removing wine from a bottle into usually a glass container. There are many different reasons why this might be done, the most common is to separate any sediment that might have formed in the bottle. Another reason is to aerate the wine to mellow over aggressive tannins. Thirdly decanting a wine for a dinner party might be done for aesthetic reasons.
A German wine quality designation (althought the term Ice Wine is often used in other regions around the world) made from grapes naturally frozen on the vine. When pressed, the unfrozen grape juice is heavily concentrated as the water has frozen making very concetrated sweet wines
The process of turning grape juice into alcoholic wine. During fermentation, yeasts interact with sugars in the juice to create ethanol (alcohol) and carbon dioxide as a by-product.
A wine that was incredibly expensive and celebrated when purchased at auction NB. May not always have delivered when opened and drunk!
A term applied for wines made from grapes left on the vines longer than usual, and typically referring to sweet wines. The late harvest grapes are similar to raisins, but have been naturally dehydrated on the vine.
Maceration applies to the period during vinification when the fermenting grape juice is in contact with its skins. Maceration is employed to extract tannins, colour and flavour compounds from the skins and is usually applied to red wines, although sometimes also for white wines.
Many wines, red and white, are fermented or aged in oak barrels. The two main categories are American and French oak, imparting soft vanilla tones to the wines. French oak is generally considered finer and more refined, with American oak generally perceived as more up front. Oak barrels are often charred to certain levels to impart other smokier flavours as well. Oak barrels are expensive though; a cheat for lower cost wines is to use oak chips in wines to achieve a similar effect
Robert Parker’s rating system employs a 50-100 point quality scale (Parker Points). 50 – 59: A wine deemed to be unacceptable, 70 – 79: An average wine with little distinction except that it is a soundly made; a straightforward wine, 96-100: An extraordinary wine of profound and complex character displaying all the attributes expected of a classic wine of its variety.
An Italain term meaning red wine.
A dessert wine, made by drying the freshly harvested grapes on straw mats or racks in a warm well ventillated area of a house for a period of time, before crushing and fermentation. The dried grapes, similar to raisins have a reduced water content and a highly concentrated grape juice content, leaving much residual sugar after fermentation.
Tannins refer to a large group of compounds that affect the colour, aging ability and texture of the wine. They are found in the skin, stems and seeds of grapes but can be introduced through the use of oak barrels or chips. Tannins have no discernable taste or smell but can be perceived in tasting by their tactile drying sensation and sense of bitterness left in the mouth (think tea that’s had the tea-bag left in for far too long). However, tannins are widely regarded as a positive component of a fine wine when well integrated into the winemaking process.
A term used to describe the combination of geology (particularly soil), geography and climate that all can impart characteristics on the wine. Terroir loosely translates as “sense of place”.
A Spanish term for red wine.