Some helpful information about wine
Descriptions by Steven
Goller, Wine Consultant
Walpole Wine & Spirits
Stainless Steel Fermentation — Traditionally, the way wine is
fermented is in large stainless steel tanks. This method accents the true,
natural characteristics of the grape variety.
Barrel Fermented — Wines are fermented in oak barrels to add
structure and complexity. Depending on the type of oak, size of the barrel,
and the age of the barrel, different styles and amounts of flavors are
imparted. Generally, oak adds woody aromas, caramel, vanilla and spice
characteristics, and some tannins.
Tannins — Tannins are an astringent characteristic predominantly
found in red wines. They come from grape seeds, skins, and stems, and also
from oak barrels. They are usually sensed in the back part of the tongue as
the wine is swallowed and are useful in balancing the fruitiness of red
wines. Tannins, acidity, and bold structure are essential for prolonged wine
Acidity — A necessary ingredient in wine to balance fruitiness, add a
lively, crisp mouth feel, and is also essential for aging wines. Noticed on
the sides of the tongue, sometimes misrelated as dryness in wines. Without
proper acidity, wines would taste flabby, overripe, and overly alcoholic.
Acidity is what cleanses and refreshes the palate.
Oak — Oak barrels add complexity, richness, and vanilla spice to
wines. Different types of oak and the degree of “toast” impart different
levels of flavor and spice.
Sweetness — Sweetness in wine is usually tasted on the tip of the
tongue and recognized in the lingering sweet taste due to residual sugar
left in the wine. In dry wines, the sugars are fermented out; in sweet
wines, the fermentation is stopped, leaving sugars and sweetness behind in
the finish. This term is often confused with fruitiness.
Fruitiness — Fruitiness is the degree of fruit complexity that you
first taste in a wine. Wines can be fruity and be either dry or sweet in the
finish. Reislings are the easiest example, since they exhibit delicate fruit
flavors with a crisp, dry finish, or a lingering sweetness.
Decanting — Wines are decanted for three main reasons; just pulling
the cork on a bottle and letting it sit will NOT work. In young red wines,
aromas are enhanced, as well as helping to soften mouth feel and tannins by
introducing them to oxygen in the process of transferring them to a
decanter. Old red wines benefit from decanting by leaving sediment behind in
the bottle. Sediment accumulates (over age) in red wines that are usually
bottled unfiltered, and are an accumulation of fine grape skins and yeast
residue. In older wines, decant them just before you drink them to savor the
delicate aromas. Lastly, red wines are decanted for elegance. Nothing
entices your senses or looks nicer than translucent rubies with a crystal
shimmer. Note: Red wines with screw caps will benefit from pouring them into
a glass and letting them sit for about 15 minutes.
Screwcap — Professionally known as the Stelvin closure, currently
replacing natural corks. It is a perfect seal for a wine bottle that ensures
the wine's varietal character and flavor. The screw cap has been improved
and implemented by many wineries (and in fact whole countries), in an effort
to shelter wine lovers from the “off” aromas and flavors caused by TCA (an
organic cork taint). TCA is a bacterium that naturally occurs in corks. The
cork is sanitized before bottling but, due to the porous nature of natural
corks, the wine travels through the cork, coming in contact with this
bacterium. When affected, the aromas of wet socks and musty flavors totally
degrade the wine, but in lesser degrees the “off” flavors do not let you
totally enjoy the wine. Once you get over the loss of the romance of pulling
a cork, you will be impressed with the true varietal characters of your wine