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Top 5 technical wine words used by experts that people struggle to understand

Top 5 technical wine words used by experts that people struggle to understand



If you are on this blog, you obviously like to read about wine.

And I am sure that you think that sometimes wine writers tend to use technical terms that are difficult to understand.


Well, I am here to help!


Far be it from me to rattle off the entire oenological vocabulary, I’d rather explain some of the technical wine words I am most often asked for clarifications by wine-lovers and those approaching this world.

Here they are:


Malolactic fermentation


Technically not a fermentation, but a process in which the naturally occurring malic acid is converted into lactic acid by a special type of bacterium. This results in lower acidity, and a softer feeling on the palate.


Malic acid provides a distinctly more acid sensation, similar to that of an unripe apple; usually appreciated in young white wines as it provides freshness.


Lactic acid, on the other hand, is less aggressive on the palate, creating a rounder sensation that is well suited to structured red wines and ageing whites. Lactic acid is also more biologically stable, therefore its presence is beneficial for the natural course of a wine life.


How to recognise it?


That is pretty straightforward.  Your wine might have this smooth creamy- buttery-brioche aromas and a velvety, incredible oil-like texture.


Oaked Chardonnay from California is a good example that illustrates how does Malolactic fermentation taste and smell.



Top 5 technical words used by wine experts that people struggle to understand Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay
Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay




On lees


Maturation on the lees (or “sur lie” as the French like to say) is a technique used to improve structure and aromas in a white wine.


The lees are dead fermentation yeasts, that, left in contact with the wine, start an autolysis process: their cellular content degrades and releases molecules that interacting with those of the wine, allows the progressive development of tertiary aromas.


For still whites, this normally takes place in small barrels with a periodic mixing of the wine with lees (batonnage).


In the production of sparkling wines with classic method, refinement in the presence of exhausted yeasts happens in the bottle, and the lees are then removed.


How to recognise it?


Wine being aged sur lie are associated with common aromas of toast, cheese, cream and bread.


To try a wine that has been aged on its lees look for whites from Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine which have “sur lie” on the label.


Many white Burgundies will also see some time. And of course all Champagne – both white and rosé.



Top 5 technical words used by wine experts that people struggle to understand. Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine
Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine




Carbonic Maceration


This is a winemaking technique adopted for the production of “primeur” (Beaujolais Nouveau style) wines.


The whole bunches are placed in a tank saturated with carbon dioxide or nitrogen where they undergo an intracellular fermentation without the intervention of yeasts.


This technique favors the formation of perfumed substances and glycerin, the migration of pigments and other substances from the skin to the pulp and the destruction of a part of the malic acid.


How to recognise it?

The resulting wines will be characterised by intense and lively colours, vinous, floral and fruity aromas and delicate tannins.


These wines are normally unsuitable for ageing. Our wine app  suggests to drink Beaujolais Nouveau within 2 years.



Oxidized wine


Oxidation occurs when the wine comes in contact with air; this can happen anytime during vinification, so winemakers use precautions such as SO2, Nitrogen or Argon to reduce air contact.


However, it needs to be said that some producers believe that limited contact with oxygen allows the development of a range of more interesting aromas and diminishes the risk that the wine will oxidize in the future.


Some other wines (such as Sherry or Vin Jaune) are specifically oxidated on purpose.




Top 5 technical words used by wine experts that people struggle to understand. Fresh wine vs. oxidized wine
Fresh wine vs. oxidized wine


How to recognise it?


The first notable sign of oxidation is a browning of the colour, due to the oxidation of phenols catalyzed by an enzyme present in grapes.




Reduced wine


Technically, “reduced wine” is the opposite of “oxidized wine”. Reduced means that the wine was not exposed to air. 


Wine reduction is associated with a lack of ventilation and therefore with a feeling of “closure”. The defect can occur at all stages of winemaking and after bottling.


How to recognise it?


The cause is of fermentative origin and involves the reduced forms of sulfur compounds with their typical hints of rotten egg, cabbage, garlic, onion, burnt rubber.


The quality of the wine can be compromised both by the perception of these odors and by the masking of the fruity/floral aromas. A bit of oxygenation can help and often solve the defect.





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