The vernacular of wine is like any other profession or hobby that has its own language. If you’ve ever sat in on an environmental engineering meeting or tagged along to band rehearsal, the acronyms and clipped technical terms can leave you feeling a bit isolated in the room.
Below are some common terms that are used in the wine industry. They run the gamut from winemaking words to hospitality references to grape varieties. There’s no particular theme, just words and phrases you might overhear the next time you step into a tasting room or take a vineyard tour.
Château versus Domaine: In the French language, Château literally means castle, but the broader use indicates any kind of country house that produces wine. It can be a grand castle or simply a production building. Domaine, on the other hand, refers to a territory or empire.
Toast. Coffee. Caramel. Vanilla. Nutty: When you peruse tasting notes that include these sorts of flavor descriptors, it characterizes a wine that has been barrel aged and/or fermented in new, toasted oak. A new oak barrel freshly seared from the assembly line will impart pronounced said flavors on a wine. Consider the caramel and vanilla notes the next time you settle in with an oak-treated Chardonnay.
Whale: A whale is a customer who buys an obscene amount of wine from a particular winery. A whale is someone who drops a good eight to 10 large on multiple cases of wine. (If the winery doesn’t pay for the shipping, there’s something wrong with the winery.)
Pinot Noir and Pinotage: These two wine-grape varieties make for two very different tasting experiences. Pinotage is South Africa’s signature red, and is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault (Sin-sew). The Cinsault grape is heat tolerant, hence the fortitude to grow in this particularly warm wine region. Typical Pinot Noir notes are red fruits like cherry and strawberry, with hints of chocolate, maybe a bit of smoke, and have a silky mouth feel.
Pinotage, on the other hand, exhibits strong smoky and meaty tones along with some bramble and baked black fruit. If you’ve never experienced a Pinotage, buy a good one imported from South Africa and pair it with some slow-smoked ribs.
Pam Long is a wine educator, consultant and writer. Consider a career in the Wine and Beverage industry and earn your Wine Studies Certificate through HSU’s eLearning & Extended Education. Email Pam: email@example.com.