Some wine words and terminology can be a little bit confusing. So let’s demystify some of them!
When we talk about Italian wine, there are a lot of words from the Italian language used on the labels. Everybody knows what is Vino, Vino Bianco, Vino Rosso or Rosato but some words are more confusing, such as the difference between Azienda Agricola and Azienda Vinicola.
Azienda Agricola means that they are agriculturists, they are actually growing their own fruit. Whereas an Azienda Vinicola, they are winemakers who typically buy or purchase the bulk of the fruit they use to make their wine.
Another couple of words that you probably see quite often on Italian labels would be Riserva and Superiore. A wine that is classified as a Riserva basically means it’s been aged longer. Whereas a wine that’s classified as Superiore usually refers to higher alcohol content, and also superior quality. One example of that would be a Prosecco DOC compared with a Prosecco Superiore DOCG.
There are other words that are often used, and they come from the French language. One of them that I think mystifies most people is Terroir. Generally speaking, people assume that Terroir means the soil or the dirt, but it’s a bit broader than that. It also refers to the climate and the general area that a wine comes from. As an example, when we talk about Piedmont and the Terroir between Barbaresco and Barolo region, the Terroir, and the climate for the Barolo are rougher and more difficult for the vines, resulting in more powerful and strong wine. And in Barbaresco, the soil is richer and easier for the vines to gain their nutrients from and therefore producing softer wines.
Another important word that comes from the French language is Cru. That basically means a single vineyard. And Bouquet, referring to the aromas that you would pick up on a glass of wine.
But when we go to English terms, there are some words that may not be particularly intuitive. When we use the word Vintage, it refers to the year the grapes were harvested. So, a 2005 Barolo would refer to the harvest of 2005 and it wouldn’t be released to the public until five years later after it’s gone through its required processing.
Fermentation means converting sugar and yeast into alcohol. And Maceration refers to skin contact and that’s where the wine gains its color and its tannins and other things from being in contact with seeds and the skins of the grapes.
When we talk about the Body of wine, we’re talking about its weight and fullness in the mouth. And we typically would refer to a wine as a light, medium, or full-bodied wine. It’s also important to mention that when we use the word Hot, it’s not referring to the body of the wine! It’s referring to the alcohol content. So, when say that a wine is hot, it means that it has a higher level of alcohol.
Mouthfeel, it’s about how it feels on your palate. It can be smooth or rough, silky…And all of that has to do with our next word: Tannins. Tannins are a quality that comes into the wine from the skin and the seeds but also from the wood aging. And those are the compounds in the wine that make your tongue kind of dry out and feel a little bit chalky.
The Finish of a wine refers to how does the wine end. After you have a sip, what are you feeling? What’s going on in your mouth after you sip the wine?
And the last one I will mention in this post is the Sediment. And the reason I wanted to mention that word is because a lot of people assume that Sediment in your glass is a defect or that there’s something wrong with the wine. And that’s absolutely NOT TUE! Many times you’ll see crystals or even some “goopy”, kind of sludgy looking stuff in a big aged red wine. And that’s not a bad thing! It’s actually due to the fact that the winemaker didn’t put the wine through an extensive filtration process. There are lots of products including animal derivatives that are used in filtering wine and some of the producers, particularly natural wine producers, don’t employ those methods. Therefore, you would see some of these sediments in your wine and it’s actually just an indicator that a quality producer. If it does bother you, you can decant the wine, and usually, all of that will remain at the bottom of the decanter.
I really enjoy studying wine and I’m sure most of you do as well. So I hope this post was helpful to you.
Ciao for now.