Watch out for the lingo…
Pompous, arrogant and downright pretentious, the once disparaging term “wine wanker” is seemingly worn as a badge of honour these days by some industry insiders and self-proclaimed experts who take great delight in beguiling the readership with their use of technical terms and oenological lingo. What better way to show how clever you are by writing wine reviews and articles that no-one understands, right?
Speaking for myself, I much prefer to read reviews and articles which tell a story, educate or showcase a region, winery or winemaker. But being asked to pour through paragraphs of jargon, waffle and BS is like sandpaper on my eyeballs! But having said that, a little bit of understanding of wine terminology makes it much less confronting to have a wine list thrown at you in a swanky fine dining venue or to endure a grandiloquent wine review written by a stuck up snob!
So I thought I’d try and demystify some of the lingo that wine wankers use to demonstrate their expertise when their discussion with the sommelier inevitably becomes a soliloquy!
Aroma – this is the bouquet of an older wine or how a young wine smells when you stick your snoz into the glass.
Balance – this term describes the harmony between the elements of the wine; such as that between sweetness and acid or that between fruit and oak/tannin.
Finish – what you can taste once the wine has been swallowed.
Blanc de Blancs – a sparkling wine made only from white grapes (usually chardonnay).
Blanc de Noirs – a white wine (likewise, usually sparkling) that is made from red-skinned grapes.
Brettanomyces – a yeast that can live in barrels and causes a “barnyard” tasting taint.
Brix – a scale used to measure the sugar content in grapes before they are fermented.
Brut – a term used to describe a very dry style of French champers.
Cuvee – usually describes a wine which is a blend of several different vats
Flabby – describes a wine that feels “fat” in your mouth, usually because of low acids.
Grand cru – in wines from Burgundy the term denotes wines of a particular official status. Elsewhere it means “Great growth”.
Grand vin – another French term which is normally used by a winemaker (mostly in Bordeaux) to identify what they believe is their best wine.
Lees – the sediment of dead yeasts, seeds etc that settles after fermentation and is separated by a process called “racking”.
Legs – no, not a reference to Elle McPherson but rather the running droplets that fall down the side of the glass after swirling (which can reveal alcohol concentration).
Maceration – the process of allowing contact of the grape skins with the juice (called the “must”) to allow phenolics like tannin to impart character on the wine.
Mousse – the effervescence of a sparkling wine.
Oaky – unsurprisingly, the term used to describe the wood and toasty characters in a wine.
Premier cru – another French term that means “first growth” and denotes quality. In Burgundy and Champagne the use of the term is highly regulated.
Punt – nothing to do with betting, but rather it is the hemispheric indentation shaped into the bottom of a wine bottle.
Racking – the process of moving wine from barrel to barrel and removing sediment in the process.
Stemmy – a term used to describe the stalky green flavours found in some wines.
Tannins – matter from skins, stalks and seeds that give a desirable astringency to the finish of red wines.
Terroir – the geological and climatic influences of a particular region that are expressed in wines from the locale.
Ullage – a term for the gap between the level of the wine and the top of the bottle.
Unctuous – a favourite term of wine wankers which describes a luscious wine which is rich with a delightful mouth feel and finish.
This handful of wine terms won’t make you the next Len Evans or James Halliday or get you a gig as head sommelier at a two-hatted restaurant, but you should at very least be able to call BS on the next wine tosser you encounter at a work function or social gathering!