Alternative Wine Vocabulary

Wine Vocabulary is huge. Many types of wine are named based on the regions they came from, others for the type of grape that was used, and if you're new to wine, and have ever read a wine review chances are you've come across a few words you've never heard before.

A few disclaimers. This is not an exhaustive dictionary. There are many other places for things like that.

This is primarily related to non-alcoholic wines and drinks.

In fact, I'm not sure "non-alcoholic wine" is even the right term. Lots of people use "non-alcoholic wine" and "alcohol free" to mean very different things.

Alcohol, or Not

This section I am completely making up. Ok, not completely. But if you read on some other site that a wine is "alcohol free" you can't be sure what it means. I am, however, going to tell you how I will use these terms on this site, firstly for some false hope that someday these terms will become standardized, and more importantly, so you'll know what I'm talking about whenever you swing by!

Non-Alcoholic - A wine that won't get you drunk. They have less than .5% alcohol. (wine normally contains about 10%)

Alcohol Free - I use this to mean a beverage that has 0% alcohol. Generally varietal grape juices or other drinks that likely never were fermented.

Alcohol Removed - This stuff once had alcohol in it, but some or all of it was removed.

Dealcoholized - Same as above, once had alcohol in it, at least some of it has been removed.

Varietal Grape Juice - Typical grape juices is made from concord grapes, and sometimes has lots of stuff added to it, usually at least Sugar. Varietal grape juices come from one specific type of grape, or variety. (eg. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, etc) Not fermented.

Blended Wine - A wine made with several types of grapes, not just one.

Sparkling wine - A wine that is carbonated (usually naturally through the fermentation process)

Fortified Wine - Typically a wine that had alcohol added to it part way through the fermentation process. This stops the fermentation early, which means less of the sugar is consumed, which means it tends to be sweeter. They might add brandy, as an example. I've never heard of a non-alcoholic version of this. :) Of course, there are many sweet drinks which are not alcoholic.

Dessert Wine - The only part anyone agrees on about the definition is that it is sweet.

Wine Alternative - I did coin this one, actually. At least I haven't heard anyone else use it before. It's pretty generic, however. It means anything that could or is meant to replace traditional (alcoholic) wine. Could be dealcoholized wine, varietal grape juice, pure, blended or mixed juices, or some other culinary beverage.

Culinary Beverage - Any drink specifically designed to enhance another food or meal.

Pure Juice - Any juice that is just juice from one thing. Some juices I've been looking into are Tart Cherry Juice, Black Currant Juice, etc.

Spinning Cone Column - A method (used primarily for Sutter Home's Fre) of removing alcohol from wine by forcing it through a series of spinning cones. Supposedly the benefit is two fold: it doesn't require much heat, and it doesn't put the wine under great pressure.

Reverse Osmosis - A method of dealcoholizing wine (used by several, but Ariel is known for it) by sending the wine through a series of filtration systems. The only alcohol removing process that can be done with no extra heat at all.

Steam Vacuum (Evaporation) - Not very highly thought of, basically involves boiling the alcohol out of the wine.

Club Soda, Seltzer, Carbonated Water, Sparkling Water, Soda Water, Tonic Water - All variations of plain ol water that has been carbonated, like Soda Pop. Tonic Water, despite having some sugar added, has a bitter taste due an additive. All the others are almost identical. Check out some of these links.

You might hear all sorts of names for wines. Here are a few of the most common. (See here for a comprehensive list)

Names based on variety (type of grape used)

Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Sauvignon (Cab for short)

Pinot Noir

Pinot Blanc
Pinot Gris
Sauvignon Blanc

Some wines are named for the Region they are produced in. This is because historically, that region would produce a specific type of wine. A good example is Champagne. People think of race car drivers spraying a very fizzy drink on each other, and might mistakenly call any fizzy wine Champagne, when in fact it could just be a sparkling wine, not made anywhere close to the Champagne region.

There are many more. (also called an Appellation rather than Region)

Some tasting vocab. If you want a list of commonly used terms describing smells and tastes, check this out.
You might hear someone say a certain wine is fruity "on the nose." Just means it smells like fruit.

Aeration - Getting air in the wine. Could be by pouring it, sipping it, or using some sort of aerator.

Legs - If you swirl the wine around in your glass, you'll see it drips and slides down the side of the glass. These streaks are called Legs.

Finish - If someone talks about how a wine finishes, they basically mean the aftertaste.

Tasting Flight - The set of wines you'll be tasting, if you go to wine tasting.

Tannins - The taste imparted to the wine from the grape skin. A bit bitter. Bite into a grape stem to get more than enough of a sampling of tannins.

Acidity - Wines tend to have a bit of acidity to them. Vinegar is very acidic. This is distinct from being tart or sour (like lemon juice... which is also, however, acidic.)

Body - How the liquid feels in the mouth. Also called (you guessed it!) Mouth Feel. Apparently alcohol content is a big factor here. It makes sense, actually, considering the airy and evaporative properties of alcohol. My guess is that mouth feel is biggest hurdle for non-alcoholic wineries.

Corked - A bad cork cause the wine to have been ill-preserved - more specifically some part of the taste of the cork inadvertently made it into the wine. Think wet cardboard. Yuck.

"Mature" and "Young" - Related to the age of the wine, but not synonymous with it. Different wines are best at different times. If you are past that time, it's too mature. If you're before that time, it's too young. This might get used different ways, the thing to remember is some wines are best fresh, and others get better age. Well, with some age, at least. From what I hear very few stay good for years and years and years.

Objects / Accessories

Stopper - That cork is pretty hard to get back on the bottle. Use a stopper instead.

Decanter - A specially designed bottle you pour wine/juice into to help get rid of any sediment. Not as useful now a days when most wine is well filtered for this type of stuff. Can help aerate, however.

There are tons of accessories. The only other one to make sure you know about is the corkscrew. :)

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