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BellaOnline's Wine Editor


Wine Dictionary Part VI

Guest Author - Paula S.W. Laurita

Our wine dictionary grows, S-Z

  • Semi-Dry/Semi-Fruity: Sometimes known as "off dry" or "blush" wines. Refers primarily to wines with just a touch of sweetness. Both Reds and Whites often have more of a flowery, fruity aroma, and they have a tendency to be lighter-drinking than a "dry" wine. As the name suggests, these are wines that have a level of residual sugar which gives them a sweeter or "fruity" taste, without being absolutely sweet like a Dessert wine, for example.
  • Sharp: Excess acid predominates "sharp" wines, disturbing the otherwise balanced flavors.
  • Smoky: Usually an oak barrel byproduct, a smoky quality can add flavor and aromatic complexity to wines.
  • Soft: Generally has low acid/tannin content. Also describes wines with low alcohol content. Consequently has little impact on the palate. In some wines it is pleasing, making for an easy or friendly wine.
  • Spicy: A descriptor for many wines, indicating the presence of spice flavors such as anise, cinnamon, cloves, mint and pepper which are often present in complex wines.
  • Stale: Wine with lifeless, stagnant qualities. Usually found in wines that were kept in large vessel storage for an excessive length of time.
  • Structure: The interaction of elements such as acid, tannin, glycerin, alcohol and body as it relates to a wine's texture and mouthfeel. Usually preceded by a modifier, as in "firm structure" or "lacking in structure."
  • Subtle: Describes delicate wines with finesse, or flavors that are understated rather than full-blown and overt. A positive characteristic.
  • Supple: Term often used for young reds which should be more aggressive. More lively than an easy wine with suggestions of good quality.
  • Tanky: Similar to "stale." Describes dull, dank qualities that show up in wines aged too long in tanks.
  • Tannin: A naturally occurring substance in grapeskins, seeds and stems. Is primarily responsible for the basic "bitter" component in wines. Acts as a natural preservative, helping the development and, in the right proportion, balance of the wine. It is considered a fault when present in excess.
  • Tart: Sharp-tasting because of acidity. Occasionally used as a synonym for acidic.
  • Tight: Usually describes a young wine. It describes a wine's structure, concentration and body, as in a "tightly wound" wine. Closed or compact are similar terms.
  • Tinny: Having a metallic taste.
  • Underipe: Resulting flavour when grapes that failed to reach optimum maturity on the vine are used in the vinification process.
  • Vegetal: Some wines contain elements in their smell and taste which are reminiscent of plants and vegetables. When the vegetal element takes over, or when it shows up in wines in which it does not belong, those wines are considered flawed.
  • Velvety: Having rich flavor and a silky, sumptuous texture.
  • Vinous: Nothing basically wrong with the wine, just has no impact on the taster. Implies good "character," but dull experience.
  • Vintage Date: Indicates the year that a wine was made. In order to carry a vintage date in the United States, for instance, a wine must come from grapes that are at least 95 percent from the stated calendar year.
  • Vintner: Translates as wine merchant, but generally indicates a wine producer/or winery proprietor.
  • Vitis Vinifera: The premier grape species used for the world's most admired wines. Also referred to as the "European vine."
  • Volatile: Powerful, attack aroma. Usually denotes high level of acidity, alcohol and/or other flavor faults.
  • Weighty: Well-structured/balanced wines with an implication of mildly excessive flavor or "heaviness."
  • Well-Balanced: Contains all of the essential elements--(i.e., alcohol, flavours, acid or astringency etc)--in good proportions.
  • Woody: Almost a synonym for oaky. However, implies an overstay in a wooden container which resulted in the absorption of other wood flavours besides "oak."

We didn't make it to "Z." Is there an essential "Y" or "Z" wine word you think we should add? Let us know.

Part I, A-C
Part II, D-F
Part III, G-L
Part IV, M-N
Part V, O-R

Special from Geerlings & Wade!

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Content copyright © 2015 by Paula S.W. Laurita. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Paula S.W. Laurita. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Peter F May for details.


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