glossary

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Balance: A wine is balanced when its elements are harmonious and no single element dominates. The "hard" components—acidity and tannins—balance the "soft" components—sweetness, fruit and alcohol.

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Acidity: Identified as the crisp, sharp character in a wine. The acidity of a balanced dry table wine is in the range of 0.6 percent to 0.75 percent of the wine's volume.

Awkward: Describes a wine that has poor structure, is clumsy or is out of balance.

Backbone: Describes the structure of a wine, referring to balanced acidity, alcohol and, in red wines, tannin. Wines lacking structure are thin or flabby.

Cloying: Describes ultra-sweet or sugary wines that lack the balance provided by acid, alcohol, bitterness or intense flavor.

Complexity: An element in all great wines and many very good ones; a combination of richness, depth, flavor intensity, focus, balance, harmony and finesse.

Harmonious: Well balanced, with no component obtrusive or lacking.

Structure: Related to the mouthfeel of a wine, provided by acidity, tannin, alcohol, sugar and the way these components are balanced. Wines with low, unbalanced levels of acidity or tannin can be described as "lacking in structure" or "flabby." When the acidity or tannin levels are sufficiently high, a "firm structure" is the result.

Acidification: The addition of acid to wine by a winemaker. The goal is to balance the wine’s soft components (sugar, alcohol and fruit). It is legal in some areas—such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Australia and California—to correct deficient acidity by adding acid. When overdone, acidity leads to unusually sharp, acidic wines. It is illegal in Bordeaux and Burgundy to both chaptalize (add sugar to) and acidify a wine.

Disjointed: Describes wine with components that are not well-knit, harmonious or balanced. The timing of the components may be off; upon tasting, a disjointed wine might first reveal big fruit, followed by a blast of screeching acidity and finishing off with a dose of tannins.

Elegant: Describes balanced, harmonious, refined wines; subtle rather than a highly-extracted blockbuster.

New Oak: Refers to the first time a barrel is used, when it has the greatest impact on wine. With successive uses, the wood imparts fewer flavors and tannins. Flavors associated with new oak include vanilla, cedar, toast and smoke. The wood tannins in newer barrels add firmness to the wine's structure. As with most components in wine, moderation and balance are key; new oak can be a positive or a negative influence, depending on whether it subtly enhances the wine or overpowers the fruit flavors.

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