I often find that wine afficionados speak a different language than those first starting to enjoy the beverage. For those of you who are new to this business of ratings, oak, vintage, and meritage – we’ve broken down some of the key terms you’ll hear used when you’re exploring.
Aging: Holding wine in barrels, tanks, or bottles for an additional period of time to allow beneficial flavors to develop and to smooth harsh aspects of the wine (like tannins).
Appellation: A delimited geographic area where specific styles of wines are produced. This type of classification was made popular by the French, who require many more specifics besides geography like grape varietals, production methods, and labeling. Some appellations in the United States include Napa Valley and the Willamette Valley.
Biodynamic: A method of organic farming that emphasizes holistic development between the soil, plants, and animals. The farming calendar is synced with lunar movements.
Decant: Pouring wine into a container, called a decanter (similar to a vase). Wine is decanted to remove sediment or to aerate the wine.
Fermentation: The process of conversion of grape sugars into alcohol.
Fortified: Wine that is made with an added distilled beverage (usually brandy) at some point during the fermentation process to increase the alcohol content of the wine and, at times, retain sugar for sweetness.
Meritage: A blend of grapes, vineyards, vintages, or blocks of different grapes to create a wine. Made popular by Napa Valley wineries.
Oaked: The process of adding oak flavoring to wine through barrel fermentation, barrel ageing, use of oak chips or oak flavoring.
Organic: Wine made from grapes grown in accordance with organic farming techniques.
Rating: A score assigned to a specific wine by a critic.
Residual Sugar: Sugar that is left over after the fermentation process. All wines (even the driest) have some form of residual sugar, the sweeter the wine, the more residual sugar.
Tannins: Phenolic compounds that give wine its bitter taste and protect wine through the aging process.
Varietal: Another name for a specific type of grape.
Vintage: A year that grapes are grown and processed through fermentation, indicated by a year on the wine label. The year always indicates when the grapes were harvested (picked).