Navigate the minefield of terminology

Few conversations strike as much fear as discussing wine. A drink that many consume nightly can still induce panic when someone at the table asks whether you think the wine is a little muted for this vintage. You have heard the terms before, but what do they really mean? Don’t worry we have you covered. Here are 10 typical wine terms and their meanings:

1) Organic
Despite much misconception surrounding this little word, it simply refers to the farming that takes place in the vineyard and is classified as farming without the use of any synthetic chemicals.

2) Biodynamic
Almost like the next step on from organic farming; founded by the Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner who incorporated organic principles but who included a more holistic and spiritual approach to the farm that is guided by the lunar cycle. The certification for this is the dashing orange ‘Demeter’ sign.

3) Hand Harvested
The traditional and artisan way of getting the grapes off of the vine during harvest is to do it by hand. The reason that people mention it is that in commercial and big production wine making, harvesting is done by vast machines that traverse the vineyards, taking the good, the bad, the ugly - and anything else it comes across - with it.

4) Wild Fermentation
The process of grapes fermenting with the natural yeasts that are found on the grapes and in the vineyard. This is a pillar of natural winemaking but can definitely take you on a rather wild and unknown journey. 

5) Vegan
Vegan (wine) - obviously we all know what being vegan entails, but in the context of wine this normally refers to the process of clarifying the wine to give it that ultra clean glossy look. To do this, the winemaker may use egg white, gelatin or isinglass.

6) Corked
Corked - a common wine fault which funnily enough can be caused be more things that just the cork it is sealed with. However it is caused, the most important thing is to know how to spot a corked wine; smells or tastes that resemble mouldy newspaper, wet dog or a damp basement. 

7) Closed / Muted
Closed / Muted - sometimes your wine isn’t quite the fragrant show stopper that you had hoped and the taste just isn’t as expressive as it should be. Your wine simply needs a touch of air - try decanting - to unclose those beautiful notes.

8) Vintage
Vintage - the professional way of saying year. The vintage shown on the bottle is the year that the grapes were picked.

9) Natural Wine
Natural wine - whilst there is no legal definition just yet, it is a wine that has had nothing added - think chemicals in the vineyard, or an extra dollop of acid in the cellar - and nothing taken away, such as being fined or filtered before bottling. The idea is to produce a wine that remains as intact as possible. Often misunderstood but a number of the best producers in the world are working this way.

10) Balanced
Balanced - what every wine should be; the perfect balance between their integral elements of alcohol, acidity, tannin, sugar and intensity.


As an extra, here are a couple of extra wine terms. Because like magnums the more the merrier.


11) Minerality
Minerality - the hot word of the moment when it comes to describing your wine. The science behind it is still iffy but the idea is that you can taste the minerals from the rocks, stones and soils on which the vine is grown.

12) Glouglou
Glouglou - the colloquial term for an easy going and dangerously drinkable bottle of wine.