Monday, February 16, 2009

Wine Lingo

Before enjoying your next glass of wine, refresh your knowledge of some common wine terms.

Acid-Used as an adjective to describe sharp or sour flavours. Acidity is a vital component of wine: it helps red wines keep their color and gives white wines their balance. Too much acidity, and a wine is tart and unpleasant; too little and the wine is 'flabby' and uninteresting.

Balance - A wine is balanced when all the component parts, such as tannins, natural fruit sugar and acidity are correctly matched and in harmony. This is mostly determined by weather and timing of the harvest. No one component should stick out or draw attention to itself.

Body- Weight of the wine on your palate. A full bodied wine will have good concentration, lots of alcohol and plenty of grape extract as opposed to a light bodied wine.

Mouth feel- Texture of wine on your tongue. (Silky, sharp velvety or Velcro-like)

Nose- 1. The thing between your eyes on the front of your face. Your nose gives you much more useful information about the characteristics of a wine than your tongue. 2. Another term for the smell, aroma or bouquet of a wine.

Tannins- Collective name for a bitter, astringent group of chemicals that are found in skins, pips and stems of grapes, and also in the oak barrels that are commonly used to age wine in. Take a young, dark monster of a red wine and swish it around your mouth. That bitter, tongue curling, tooth-coating, drying sensation you get is from the tannins.

Terroir- site-specific differences in wines that are caused by factors such as soil types, drainage, local microclimate and sun exposure. Debate rages about the importance of terroir versus the role of the winemaker, and also exactly how factors such as soils influence the flavour of the wine.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hillsides vs. Valley-Floor Vineyards

A good viticulturist makes many decisions, especially when planting a new section of the vineyard. A common myth states that better quality wines come from hillsides rather than the valley-floor. This ultimately depends on varietal, rootstock and management as the tannins and berry size differ. Hillside soils do tend to have better drainage and most great wines are grown in poor, shallow soils.

Try your own experiment tonight. Pick an Oakville, CA producer such as: Franciscan Oakville Estate, Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Robert Mondavi Winery or Sterling Vineyards. They are large enough to encompass both terroirs. Across the board, these are wonderfully proportioned wines with bright, succulent fruit marked in most cases by an appealing minty or herbaceous character. Descriptors most commonly associated with Oakville District Cabs include muscular, substantial fruit reminiscent of black currants, blackberries and plum.