Wine dictionary: Information to help restaurateurs impress their guests

Wine has its own language. Connoisseurs say things like: ‘This white wine is very astringent’ or ‘the barrique wine tastes even better decanted’. For all restaurateurs and connoisseurs who want to join in the conversation, MPULSE explains important technical terms from the world of fine wines in its wine dictionary.

Dark grapes on vines
Wine tasting

What's it all abou?

🍷 The most important terms relating to wine

🍷 The many nuances of flavours and aromas 

🍷 Wine information for connoisseurs and gourmets

Sunny vineyards

Finish:

The finish is the aftertaste of a wine and is also referred to as reverberation or finale. When you taste wine, you experience different taste impressions that linger on the palate and tongue. A variety of flavours (see info box about nuances and flavours) can linger in the mouth, varying in length and intensity. The longer and more pleasant the finish, the finer the quality of the wine.

Auslese (select harvest):

Hand-picked for gourmets: Auslese (German for select harvest) refers to top wines that are legally protected Prädikat wines (special quality wines, see section 'Prädikat wine') in Germany and Austria. Winegrowers produce ‘Auslese’ wines by carefully selecting fully ripe grapes, which in Germany require a must weight of at least 95 degrees Oechsle (see section 'Oechsle'). The Auslese label can be applied to both red and white wines. Their flavour profiles also vary. Some are sweet and smooth, while others may be dry.

 

Astringent:

This term is derived from the Latin ‘adstringere’, which means to contract. A wine is described as astringent if it causes a dry, slightly rough and furry feeling in the mouth, as if the mucous membranes are contracting. This effect is caused by tannins (see section 'Tannins') in the wine. Young, tannic red wines in particular tend to have an astringent effect.

Barrique:

The barrique is a 225-litre barrel made of oak that is used in wine production, especially for red wine. Wines that mature in these barrels – also known as barrique wines – feature special aromas, such as vanilla or roasted notes. This is because the oak wood releases aroma, colour and flavour substances, including tannins (see section 'Tannins'), into the wine. Often, the inside of the barrel is heated or roasted, a process known as toasting. The toasted oak gives the wine additional flavours.

Blend:

The perfect blend makes all the difference: in German-speaking countries, the term 'blend' is used to describe wines that are made up of different grape varieties, sites or vintages. Blending several wines can create high-quality wine compositions. As the German word ‘Verschnitt’ has a negative connotation, the English term ‘blend’ or the French term ‘cuvée’ (see section 'Cuvée') is commonly preferred.

Bouquet:

The French term bouquet refers to the harmonious composition of a bouquet of flowers as well as the characteristic aroma of a wine in the glass. The bouquet is made up of the aromas of the grapes that develop as the wine matures. A wine with a rich bouquet has a wealth of different aroma and flavour nuances (see info box about nuances and flavours)  – just like a bouquet of flowers.

Cuvée:

Imported from France, the word cuvée refers to a blend (see section 'Blend') of different grape varieties, sites or vintages. Other terms are used around the world, and even the French sometimes call it an assemblage. In France, however, the term cuvée refers to all wines that a winery bottles separately, regardless of whether they are single-varietal or blended.

Decanting:

Decanting means pouring a wine from the bottle into another container, the so-called decanter. This separates the wine from the sediment (see section 'Sediment'). Especially older red wines contain sediments, which are natural but may affect the taste. Another potential advantage of decanting is that it brings the wine into contact with oxygen, which helps the aromas unfold. Some wines simply get better when you let them breathe. However, this does not apply to all wines and depends on personal taste preferences. Aerating the wine is also known as decanting.

 

Sediment:

The particles settling at the bottom of the bottle as the wine matures are called sediment. Amongst other things, the sediment contains tannins (see section 'Tannins'). The natural precipitate is a sign of maturity and can be separated from the clear wine by decanting (see section 'Decanting').

Extract:

What characterises the inner quality of a wine? Extract is an important indicator. This is the sum of all ingredients that are dissolved in the wine and that remain as solids when the fine wine evaporates during heating. For example, extract includes sugars, acids, pigments and tannins (see section 'Tannins') as well as minerals and trace elements. Some wines are low in extract, while others are high in extract. Generally, a high extract value is often associated with high-quality wine.

Aerating:

Aerating means pouring wine from a bottle into a carafe to aerate it. This allows the flavours to develop better. There are different opinions as to whether aerating is useful and for which wine. Colloquially, aerating and decanting (see section 'Decanting') are often used interchangeably, but strictly speaking they are two different processes.

Church windows:

What do church windows have to do with wine? They are the drops and streaks – also known as ‘tears’ and ‘legs’ – that a wine leaves behind on the inside of the glass when it is swirled. These patterns on the glass are reminiscent of the appearance of church windows. Among other things, they can be used to draw conclusions about the alcohol content of the wine. Wines with a higher alcohol content produce stronger, ogival church window patterns, while wines with a lower alcohol content produce weaker, round-arched church windows. This phenomenon says nothing about the quality of the wine.

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Oechsle:

In Germany, Oechsle is the measurement unit for must weight, which specifies the proportion of dissolved substances in unfermented grape juice. The majority of these dissolved substances are sugars, but there are also other components such as acids and minerals. The Oechsle measurement unit is an important indicator of the quality and character of wine. For wines of the highest quality level, the so-called Prädikat wines (see section 'Prädikat wine'), the minimum must weight is clearly specified. The measurement unit is named after Christian Ferdinand Oechsle, who lived from 1774 to 1852. He invented the must scale that is still used today to measure must weight. The weight is always stated in ‘degrees Oechsle’. Different measurement units exist around the world. France and Spain, for example, use the unit ‘degrees Baumé’ to measure must weight, while English-speaking countries usually use ‘degrees Brix’.

Prädikat wine (special quality wine):

The crème de la crème: quality wines of the highest grade are labelled ‘Prädikatswein’ in Germany. There are six different Prädikat wine levels: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese (see section 'Auslese'), Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein. According to German wine law, Prädikat wines must fulfil strict requirements, such as a certain minimum must weight, which is measured in Oechsle (see section 'Oechsle').

Oenology:

The science of wine is called oenology. Wine experts, otherwise known as oenologists, deal with the entire process of wine production – from winegrowing, harvesting and pressing to bottling and storage. In many countries, becoming an oenologist is based on university studies or practice-orientated training, for example at special viticulture schools.

Tannins:

Everyone is familiar with it: the astringent, dry and slightly furry feeling in the mouth during the first sip of wine. The reason for this sensation is the plant-based tannin, which gives the wine its slight bitterness. Tannins contribute to the structure of the wine and are an important factor in the quality assessment of red wines.

 

From aromatic to powerful: Typical aroma and flavour nuances of wine

🍷 Aromatic: Wine has a variety of aromas and flavours

🍷 Floral: Highly fragrant during sniffing

🍷 Rich bouquet: Abundance of aroma and flavour compounds

🍷 Fragrant: Elegant, pleasant scent

🍷 Elegant: Perfect balance of acidity, bouquet and alcohol content

🍷 Flat: A term with negative connotations, indicating a lack of flavour intensity or depth

🍷 Rich in content: Variety of ingredients such as sugar, glycerine, tannins and pigments

🍷 Harmonious: A good balance of all ingredients

🍷 Tart: Rich in tannins and therefore particularly bitter

🍷 Strong: High alcohol content

🍷 Smooth: Light, pleasant, low in alcohol and acidity

🍷 Sparkling: A slightly carbonated wine that is refreshing

🍷 Velvety: Low tannin content, pleasant, non-furry mouthfeel

🍷 Sour: Unbalanced ratio due to excessive acidity and therefore has a negative connotation

🍷 Palatable: Goes down well

🍷 Deep: Varied and multi-layered flavours

🍷 Dry: Low sugar and high alcohol content

🍷 Full-bodied: Wine seems voluminous in the mouth

🍷 Powerful: High alcohol content and powerful body

 

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