Frequently Asked Questions & Common Wine Vocabulary Defined

When it comes to the world of wine, memorizing the countless terms and phrases can seem almost as complicated as learning a new language. Anyone from a novice wine taster to an experienced wine aficionado is sure to have a question or two when it comes to learning about our unique high altitude wines here at Byrd Vineyard. That’s why we created this handy wine term glossary and FAQ guide — so that you can be as informed as possible when discovering what makes Byrd Vineyard’s wines so special! 

Vineyard vocabulary

Words like “high altitude wine” and “volcanic ferrous content” are used to describe our wines, but what do these terms really mean? How do they contribute to differentiating our wines from the many others produced throughout California?

What is High Altitude Wine and what makes it so special? 

High altitude wine is grown in vineyards at high elevation such as the 2,400-foot mountains of the Mayacamas Range where Byrd Vineyard is located. High elevation creates a desired combination of increased solar rays, greater temperature fluctuation, optimal rocky soil, and crisp mountain freshness that results in wine with an intensity of color, flavor, and tannins. 

What is Terroir and how would you describe Byrd Vineyard’s?

Terroir is used to describe geographical characteristics unique to a given vineyard. These characteristics such as the region’s climate, soil, and terrain greatly affect the taste of the wine and can result in unique wine unlike any other. Additionally, altitude is an important factor in the vineyard’s expression of terroir. The high altitude terrain of Byrd Vineyard results in high quality wine high in antioxidants and concentrated with flavor.

What is Vintage and why is it important?

A wine’s vintage is the year that its grapes were harvested. The wine’s vintage can dramatically affect its taste and quality due to the change in weather during the growing season of that particular year. Years with plenty of sunny days lead to flavorful grapes that reach optimal ripeness, resulting in delicious and fruit-forward wine.

What is Volcanic Ferrous Content and how does it affect the wine?

Soil high in volcanic ferrous content results in fine and distinctive wines. Volcanic soil is high in minerals and often results in small grapes concentrated with flavor and high in acid.

Wine making process vocabulary

The wine-making process can seem overwhelmingly complicated when first learning about its many nuances and steps. These basic terms describe some of the most important steps of the wine making process.

What is Aeration and why is it important?

Aeration is the addition of oxygen to wine in order to round out and soften a wine. Giving the wine a chance to “breathe” changes the flavor of the wine and allows for a smooth sipping experience.

What is Aging and why it is important?

Aging wine refers to holding wine in barrels or bottles to advance their flavors and textures to a more desirable state. 

What is Extraction and how does it affect the wine?

Extraction is a process for making red wine that involves extracting phenolic compounds such as flavors, tannins, and color. The longer and more aggressive the extraction, the stronger and more robust the wine.

Wine tasting vocabulary

There are a multitude of ways to describe all aspects of wine, from its flavor to its texture and even its health properties such as antioxidants. To get a better sense of what these terms really mean, take a look at these wine tasting vocabulary words!

What is Acidity and why is high acidity good?

Acidity is the perceived level of crispness or sharpness of wine. A wine needs high levels of acid in order to provide liveliness and balance. 

What is Alcohol Content and how does it affect a wine’s body?

Alcohol content is the amount of ethanol in a given volume of liquid. Alcohol content affects the flavor of a wine by changing the flavor harmony, body, and even perceived taste. 

What are Antioxidants and what are their benefits?

Antioxidants, or polyphenols, are compounds found in red wine. Antioxidants have been found to have many health benefits including improving heart health. 

What is a wine’s Aroma and what are some examples?

The aroma is the smell of the wine. The aroma can be floral, citrus, fruity, herbaceous, vegetal, earthy, or a number of other scents.

What does it mean for a wine to be Balanced?

Balance refers to when the elements of wine including acids, sugars, tannins, and alcohol come together in a pleasing and harmonious way.

What does it mean when a wine is described as Bright?

A bright wine refers to lively, fresh-tasting wines that make your mouth water with focused flavor. 

What does it mean when a wine is described as Complex?

A complex wine has many layers to it and exhibits numerous odors, nuances, and flavors. The flavor of complex wine can change from the moment you taste it to the moment you swallow it. Complex wine is said to have depth. 

What does it mean when a wine is described as Dry?

Dry wine refers to a taste sensation attributed to tannins that causes puckering in the mouth. Dry wine is a result of all of the grape’s sugars being converted to alcohol. Dry wine is the opposite of sweet wine, which still has residual sugars left from the grapes.

What does it mean when a wine is described as Earthy?

Earthy wine refers to an odor or flavor reminiscent of the earth, soil, or even mushrooms. 

What is a wine’s Finish and why is it important?

A wine’s finish refers to the lingering flavors or textures that remain in your mouth after swallowing wine. Finish is an important aspect to pay attention to when judging quality wine, as a long finish is often a sign of quality. 

What are Flavonoids and what do they contribute to a wine?

Flavonoids are nutrients found in fruits and vegetables that provide health benefits as well as vivid color to fruits such as grapes. Flavonoids contribute to the flavor and mouthfeel of wine. 

What does it mean when a wine is described as Full-bodied?

Full-bodied wine refers to wine that is high in both alcohol and flavor. Most full-bodied wines are red wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Bordeaux. Full-bodied wines have complex flavors and a rich mouthfeel.

What does it mean when a wine is described as Herbaceous?

Herbaceous wine refers to odors or flavors of fresh herbs such as oregano, rosemary, or basil. Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine variety that is commonly positively described as herbaceous.

What is Length when describing a wine?

Length is used to describe the amount of time that the wine’s taste stays in your mouth after swallowing. The longer the lingering sensation, the higher quality the wine.

What is Mouth-feel when describing a wine?

Mouth-feel is used to describe how a wine feels on your palate. Mouth-feel can be rough, silky, smooth, or velvety. Mouth-feel is influenced by factors including alcohol, acidity, and tannins.

What does it mean when a wine is described as Oaky?

Oaky wine refers to aromas and flavors of vanilla, baking spices, coconut, and mocha that come from aging the wine in oak barrels.

What are Phenolic Compounds and what do they contribute to the wine?

Phenolic compounds are natural compounds found in the skins and seeds of grapes. These compounds affect the taste, color, and mouth-feel of the wine.

What does it mean when a wine is described as Round or Smooth?

When wine is described as round or smooth, it describes a wine that has soft tannins and a pleasing texture. Round and smooth wines are velvety and easy to drink and they are not coarse or tannic. 

What is a wine’s Structure?

Structure is a tasting term that refers to harmony of fruit, alcohol, tannins, and acidity. A well-structured wine is also well-balanced.

What does it mean when a wine is described as Sweet?

Sweet is a tasting term referring to perceptible flavors and odors of sugar in the wine. Sweet wine is the opposite of dry wine.

What are Tannins and why are they important? What are soft tannins/low tannins?

Tannins are phenolic compounds in the wine that leave a bitter, dry, puckery feeling in the mouth. Tannins are important because they provide texture and mouth-feel to the wine, as well as a sense of structure and balance. Soft tannins are no longer astringent and result in smooth wine. Low tannin red wines are even-textured and round.


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About Byrd

Bruce Byrd started Byrd Vineyard out of a love of making great wine by hand. Wine that everyone would enjoy while creating cherished memories. Check back often to learn more about his journey and wines.

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Byrd’s vineyard is blessed with mountainous terrain: marine sediments, shale, sandstone, chert, and gravel, These are the highest-elevation vineyards in California. 

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