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All wine contains acid, mainly tartaric acid, and the acidity gives wine the ability to fight bacteria and allows wine to age gracefully. For white wines acidity is the backbone of the wine’s taste, it will impart a dry, crisp and fresh sensation while a lack of acidity tastes fat or flabby. The sides of the tongue will give the impression of the overall style of the wine and is classified as tart, crisp, soft or flabby.
Before tasting wine note the hue of the wine. Is it light red, purple or black? How dense, clear or opaque is it? Pay attention to the clarity. Is it limpid and clean or is there any haze or particulate matter in the wine?
The French system of designating, controlling and protecting the geography and the quality of wines (as well as liquors and some food products). After French vineyards suffered near devastation from vine diseases near the end of the 19th century, fraud and adulteration were rampant until the French government passed the AOC laws specifying and delimiting the geography from which a particular wine may originate and methods by which it may be made.
The term used to mark the presence of acetic acid and ethyl acetate. Detected by a sweet and sour, sometimes vinegary smell and taste along with a sharp feeling in the mouth.
Describes a wine that retains youthful characteristics despite considerable aging. This usually indicates that it will take longer to reach maturity and requires even more aging in the bottle or barrel.
The overall impression of a wine, how some feel light on the palate while others feel heavy of fuller is classified as light bodied, medium bodied, and full bodied. Balance and body are both related to alcohol content in wine, too much alcohol and wine will feel hot and taste overly spicy. Balance is described as how the elements of a wine fit together, how nothing overpowers the palate but is rich in complexity.
Term reserved for wines from the best grape varieties, the so-called “noble grapes.” Denotes wines judged to have reached classical expectations of aroma, balance, structure and varietal character.
Denotes a wine having an aggressive, prickly taste best described as peppery. Sometimes combined with “brawny” to characterize a young red wine with high alcohol and tannin content. DUMB - Characteristic description of a young wine with yet-to-develop aromas and flavors. A synonym for "closed-in" named because it seems "unable to speak."
Saying a wine is fortified means the alcohol content is greater than what natural yeast fermentation could give. Wines are fortified to higher alcohol content by adding brandy or neutral spirit. Port, Sherry, Madeira, Malaga, Tokay, Frontignan and Frontignac are all fortified wines.
A wine high in alcohol and giving a prickly or burning sensation on the palate. Accepted in fortified wines, but not considered as a particularly desirable attribute in Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay. Positively undesirable in light, fruity wines.
French call them tears of wine, some people call them fingers, curtains and even church windows, but we know them as legs. Legs refers to the liquid rivulets that form on the inside of a wineglass bowl after the wine is swirled in order to evaluate the alcohol concentration. Usually the higher the alcohol content, the more impressive the rivulets appear because of reduced surface tension effects.
Allowing wine to breathe opens up the aromas, softens and mellows the tannins, and improves overall flavor characteristics. The boldest wines, red zinfandels and cabernets are the most likely to benefit from breathing, especially if they're young. Simply popping the cork won’t do. The best way to accomplish real aeration is to pour the wine into a decanter. The increased surface area is the key to allowing more air to make contact with the wine.
The nose, or aroma, of a wine can be one of the most enticing characteristics. Swirl the wine gently in the glass to aerate it and volatilize the aromatic compounds, making it easier to smell. Put your nose deep in the glass and take in the intensity of the aroma as well as its particular components. Is it fruity? Is the scent like spices, pepper, earth or minerals? Do you detect any wood or toasty aromas? Does it smell musty, moldy or otherwise off-putting? A great wine has a beautiful blend of seductive aromas that all balance together nicely, without any strange aromas to distract you.
The mouth is the flavor of the wine. Is it powerful or intense? Or is it slow to build or even flabby and lacking spirit? Are the flavors in line with what you detected in the nose or different? Are they simple or is it a complex melange of different flavors? Is the mouthfeel rough and angular, smooth and seductive, silky or velvety, chewy or light and ethereal? Finally, does the finish or aftertaste of the wine linger beautifully on your palate enticing you to take another sip, or does it cut off short, or leave a strange, bitter or otherwise unsavory flavor in your mouth?
The indentation in the bottom of some bottles of wine is thought by some to be a holdover from the days of blown glass bottles and by others to trap sediment. Sommeliers and waiters love to put their thumb in the punt for one-handed twisting and pouring.
Wine must be stored at a constant temperature below 60 degrees F (15 degrees C). Fluctuations of more than a few degrees are harmful to aging wine. The humidity must be above 75% year round and the cellar must be free from vibration.
To chill or not to chill? Serving temperature is a matter of preference, but by popular opinion the various wines are best served at the following temperatures :
Type Celsius Fahrenheit
Sweet Sherry 22-27 72-80
Medium Sherry & Port 17-25 62-77
Dry Sherry 12-17 54-62
Dry White Wines 8-15 46-58
Red Wine 16-21 60-70
Red Dessert Wines 11-19 52-66
Rose Wines & Champagne 7-11 44-52
Sweet White Wines (Still & Sparkling) 2-7 36-45
A component contributed by the oak. Considered to add a degree of sweetness to red wines when present in barely detectable amounts, so adding to a desirably complex style.