Here at Whitehall Vineyard, we believe that good wine should be inclusive and accessible to all.
Sometimes, understanding what wine will be perfect for you and your occasion may seem complicated, or perhaps daunting. Wine terminology is not part of everyone’s everyday vocabulary, making it harder for some to know how to find the bottles they seek.
The purpose of this glossary is to provide a dictionary explaining the meaning of the most common wine terms that you may come across when looking to buy quality wine online.
Acidity – One of a wine’s main characteristics, determining how tart, crispy or sour the wine tastes. Technically, all wines fall on the acidic side of the pH scale, but some may be more so than others. Wines with higher acidity are more likely to improve over time than those with lower acidity.
Aeration – The process of exposing air to wine, triggering oxidation. When a wine is oxidised, the flavours and aromas flatten out and soften. Wines that benefit from this process are those that are more dense and concentrated.
Aftertaste – Aftertaste is the flavour that lingers in the mouth after the wine is tasted. Also known as finish. A good aftertaste is an indication of quality wine.
Aging – In wine, aging is the simple process of storing a wine in a cool, dark place for years, enabling the wine to improve in flavour and quality as it sits in the bottle. Not all wines require aging to be enjoyed; wines with a higher acidity are most suitable for aging.
Aroma – Refers to the specific and distinct smells that are unique to a particular wine or grape variety.
Attack – Means a strong first impression, often noticeable before you even taste the wine, just from the scent alone. Usually floral, enhanced by swirling the wine in the glass to release more scent molecules to the nose.
Bacchus – One of the most well-known grapes in English still winemaking. The Wiltshire climate is particularly perfect for bringing the best out of this variety. The name has origins in Latin and Greek, meaning ‘God of Wine’.
Balance – A balanced wine means one where all the different components work together in harmony. For example, the strength of the alcohol, acidity, tannin, sweetness and fruit concentration. No particular component should stand out, but they should all work together… in balance.
Blend – Wine that is made from multiple different types of grapes or varietals.
Body – Also known as ‘weight’, body refers to how heavy a wine feels in your mouth. Full-bodied wines often have bold tastes or complex flavours and tend to have a prominent scent. It is harder to pair full-bodied wines with food, as they can so easily overpower the flavour. However, when done well, the combination of the perfect full-bodied wine with the perfect accompanying meal is incomparable.
Bouquet – Used to describe a wine’s aroma or fragrance, most commonly used to refer to aged wines.
Claret – Originally coined in Britain to describe Cabernet-based wines, red wines originating from Bordeaux.
Corked – Wine that is described as ‘corked’ is one that has been tainted by a natural chemical compound called TCA (which is found in the cork). Here at Whitehall Vineyard, we use screw-top lids on our bottles, avoiding the risk of TCA contamination.
Crisp – A crisp wine is one that plays with the perfect balance of acidity and dryness. It should not feel overly sweet or with flowery flavours, but sharp and refreshing in the mouth.
Delicate – Delicate wines are light and understated, more common among whites than reds. They are among the most versatile wines when it comes to food pairing, as they will never overpower the flavours of your meal.
Dessert Wine – Sometimes called ‘pudding’ wines, dessert wines are – unsurprisingly – those that are most typically served with dessert. Often sweet, high-alcohol content and designed to ‘sip’ as your meal winds down.
Floral – Usually referring to the aromas of a wine, floral describes wine scents that are reminiscent of flowers.
Fortified Wine – Contains a distilled spirit like brandy, e.g. port wine or sherry.
Fruity – Wines where the flavours of the grape or other fruits are among the most distinctive notes upon tasting.
Grip – Used to refer to wines that have a noticeable tannin or acid component. Generally, this is a good thing – as wines with a grip are firm, flavourful and with a pleasing texture.
Herbaceous – Refers to wines with a prominent flavour of herbs, adding a captivating extra kick to the taste. Our Bacchus wine, for example, combines elderflower with herbaceous notes to create a sweet sensation on the palate with a long-lasting flavourful finish.
Intensity – When referring to the colour of a wine, intensity describes a highly concentrated, opaque colour. You will see the intensity of wine referred to as generally either ‘pale’, ‘medium’ or ‘dark’.
Late Harvest – Wines made from late harvest grapes have been left on the vine even after they’ve reached their peak ripeness. Such grapes are most commonly used to make wines with higher sugar or alcohol content.
Length – How long the taste of wine lingers on your palate after you have swallowed. A wine’s length is either short, moderate or long.
Maceration – A process to enhance and optimise the flavour and colour of a wine, through leaving red wine in contact with grape skins, seeds and even stalks after fermentation.
Mouth-Feel – Simply put, the sensation of wine in the mouth. Mouth-feel can be described as smooth, silky, sharp, rough, for example.
Nose – Used to describe how the wine smells in the glass.
Oaky – Refers to wines characterised by their aging in oak barrels, giving them a fruity, sophisticated flavour.
Palate – The ability to taste and identify different characteristics, flavours and aromas in wine. The best way to hone your palate is simply to practice! Few people have a natural palate, but most people will get better at differentiating the different components within different wines over time.
Rich – A generally more flavourful, stronger-tasting wine, with a full mouth-feel, more distinguishable notes and often a higher alcohol content.
Round – A wine with little or no tannin, but is often quite smooth.
Structure – The precise combination of a wine’s acidity, alcohol content, tannin, body, sweetness and other defining components.
Tannins – Tannins are a group of bitter compounds, found naturally in most fruit and plants as an evolutionary method of making themselves unpalatable. They’re the reason why unripe fruit just doesn’t ‘taste right’. That said, when included in the right quantities, they can actually add an enhancing flavour to food and drink – just look at chocolate, coffee and, of course, wine. Tannins in wine come from the grapes and the wood barrels using during aging, providing texture, mouth-feel and an improved structure.
Vintage – Simply the year that the grapes in a wine were picked. Non-vintage wines are those created from a mixture of grapes from different years.
If the above wine glossary has inspired you to use your new-found expertise to treat yourself to some delicious wines, check out our online store.
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