Category:Wine terms

Wine terms: Reserve

When is a wine term not really a wine term? When it ?s the term reserve, which is used to imply that the wine is of better quality, as in reserve cuvee or winemaker ?s reserve.

The truth is (in the United States, anyway) that the word reserve has no legal meaning. It can signify wine made with great care and effort, or it can be be nothing more than a marketing ploy.

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Wine terms: Corked

Wine terms: Corked
“Ewww… a wet puppy.”

It can happen to any wine with a cork closure, regardless of price. It doesn ?t make any difference what kind of wine it is, where it ?s from, or who makes it. Cork taint, or corked wine, will spoil any wine at any time.

Know two things about corked wine. First, it ?s caused by the presence of a chemical compound called TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole for any chemists in the audience), which occurs in the cork and works its way into the wine. TCA can also be present in the winery, a chemical reaction waiting to happen. Research has shown that using chlorine cleaning products increases the chances of TCA presence, and most wineries don ?t use them any more.

Second, TCA changes the flavor and aroma of the wine. Sometime it ?s subtle, and sometime it ?s as obvious as a wet puppy — literally. That ?s one of the descriptions of the way corked wines smell and taste. Among the others: Moldy, musty, wet newspaper and dank basement.

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Wine terms: Tannins

wine terms yanninsOne reason so many people don ?t like red wine is because they ?re overwhelmed by the tannins. They sip the wine, and then taste something bitter and astringent just before they swallow (or spit it out, as the case may be). Then they shake their heads and go, ?No more red wine for me. ?

But tannins don ?t have to be that way.

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Wine terms: Room temperature

White wine should not be served at 35 degrees -- that's too cold to taste all its flavors Americans drink red wine too warm and white wine too cold. As such, we have a difficult time tasting the wine the way it ?s supposed to taste.

How can this be, you ask? Isn ?t there one basic, simple wine rule left, and isn ?t it that red wine should be served at room temperature and that white wine should be chilled?

Yes, but there is room temperature and there is room temperature.

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Wine terms: Sweet vs. fruity

sweet vs. fruityThis is one of the most perplexing differences to many wine drinkers, experienced or not. They ?ll confuse wine that is fruity, like sauvignon blanc or vigonier, with wine that is sweet, like riesling. In fact, there is a significant difference.

A dry wine, very simply, is a wine that isn ?t sweet ? nothing more complicated than that. Most of the wine sold in the U.S., save for white zinfandel, is dry, and that holds true whether it ?s red or white.

So why the confusion? Because most people associate dry wine with red wine, and with the tannins in red wine. The tannins are the stuff that causes the astringent, unpleasant flavor that makes your mouth pucker. It ?s one reason why so many people say they don ?t like red wine, though tannins don ?t have to be unpleasant and are actually a key part of well-made wine.

But tannins have very little to do with how dry the wine is. Dryness is the absence of sweetness, not the presence of tannins. A wine can be tannic and sweet, like poorly-made port. And white wines, which usually don ?t have any tannins, can be just as dry as red wines.

The other area of confusion revolves around the fruit flavors in wine. We ?re so accustomed to equating fruitiness with sweetness, like in jams and pies, that when we smell or taste a fruit flavor, we assume that it ?s sweet — even when it isn ?t. Case in point is a typical $10 California merlot, which is just bursting with ripe, mouth-filling blueberry flavor. But it doesn ?t have any measurable level of sugar, and is a bone dry wine.

How to explain the difference? Consider a glass of plain iced tea. That ?s dry, since it isn ?t sweet. Add lemon juice to the tea, and it becomes fruity, but dry. Now add sugar to the iced tea, and it becomes fruity and sweet tea. The principle is the same with wine.

One way to quickly tell whether a wine is sweet is the alcohol content. During the wine making process, the sugar in the grape juice is converted to alcohol. This means that the higher the alcohol, the drier the wine. Low alcohol, usually less than 12 percents, usually produces a sweeter wine.