Malbec grapes.
Malbec grapes.
Image: 123RF / Karol Kozlowski

In last month’s online edition, we looked at the most common wine varietals and styles out there. Today, let’s look at some lesser-known ones, as well as other wine terms you’re bound to come across. Read on, then tell your friends you learnt a new language while in lockdown…

Blush: A wine made from red grapes which appears pink or salmon in colour. This is because the grape skins were removed from the fermenting juice before more colour could be imparted. It’s more commonly referred to as rosé (pronounced “rose-ay”).

Bordeaux-style blends: Pronounced “bored-oh”, there is nothing boring about these wines. Named after the famous region in France, known for its red and white blends, our homegrown examples are some of the finest. Consisting of a blend of two or more grapes that originate from the Bordeaux region, the beauty of a blend is that you generally get the best qualities of each grape, rounded out by the others, to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

Claret: “Clar-it” is the English name for red bordeaux wine. Presumably, the English never had this handy guide and were intimidated by the French pronunciation.

Cru: “Crew” is a French term for ranking a wine’s inherent quality. “Grand cru” is a title awarded to the very best vineyards in France.

Fortified wine: This is a wine that has had brandy added to it during fermentation. The sugars and sweetness are higher as a result.

Gewürztraminer: Pronounced “ga-vertz-tra-meena”, this is a sweet and spicy white grape popular in eastern France, Germany, Austria, northern Italy and California. It’s catching on here too.

Haut: Pronounced “hoat”, this is the French word meaning “high”. It applies to quality as well as the altitude of a vineyard.

Late harvest: A term used to describe dessert wines made from grapes left on the vines for an extra-long period, often until botrytis has set in (a friendly fungus that shrivels grapes and intensifies their flavour and sweetness). See also noble rot.

Magnum: A bottle equal to two regular 750ml bottles.

Malbec: “Mel-beck” is a hearty red grape of French origin, growing in popularity here in Mzansi.

Nebbiolo: “Nebby-oh-low” is a red grape popular in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. The handful of examples in South Africa are well worth checking out.

Négociant: Stemming from the French word for “merchant”, “neh-go-see-ahn” is a term for a person who buys wines from others and then labels them under their own name.

Noble rot: Nicer than it sounds, this refers to the process of letting grapes age and shrivel on the vine – concentrating the sugars so top-quality sweet wines can be made from them. See also late harvest.

Oxidised: A wine that is no longer fresh because it has been exposed to too much air.

Varietal: Pronounced “vah-ry-it-el” – a wine made from just one grape type and named after that grape – the opposite of a blend.

Vintage: The particular year the grapes were harvested in order to make a certain wine.

 Wade Bales is the Founder of Wade Bales Wine Co. 

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