Wine Glossary: B
While tasting wine across Washington state, here are some terms you may come across:
Backbone - Used to describe red wines that are big, full-bodied, well structured and balanced by a desirable level of acidity.
Backward - Used to describe a wine that retains youthful characteristics despite considerable aging. A wine that should be more developed than it is for it's age.
Balance - A wine has balance when its elements are harmonious and no single element dominates. Acid balances sweetness; fruit balances against oak and tannin content; alcohol balances against acidity and flavor. A wine's balance may only be realized after some aging and is the primary goal of a winemaker.
Balthazar - An oversized bottle which can hold the equivalent of 12-16 standard sized bottles.
Barbera - A noble red grape used to make hearty red wines in the Piedmonte of Northwestern Italy and also in California. Produces dark, fruity, astringent wines and may also be made into sparkling and semi-sweet wines.
Barnyard - A strangely positive term for a rotting straw and sweaty horse smell of a fine red or white Burgundy.
Barrel fermented - Refers to wine that has been fermented in casks, usually 55-gallon oak barrels, rather than larger tanks. It is the belief of some advocates that barrel fermentation contributes greater harmony between the oak and the wine, increases body and adds complexity, texture and flavor to certain wine types. Used mainly for whites.
Beaujolais - Typically light, fresh fruity red wines from the area of the same name, immediately south of Burgundy in France.
Big - Overall flavor of a wine, red or white, that has full, rich flavors. Generally has a positive ring to it, but can imply some clumsiness, the opposite of elegance. 'Big' reds are often tannic. 'Big' whites are generally high in alcohol and glycerin.
Bite - A marked degree of acidity or tannin. An acid 'grip' in the finish which should be like a zestful tang and is favorable only in red full-bodied wine.
Bitter - One of the four basic tastes along with salty, sour, and sweet. Can signify the fruit of immature vines or excessive tannin. If the bitter component dominates in the aroma or taste of a wine, it is considered a fault. In sweet wines a hint of bitterness enhances and complements the other flavors, creating an overall taste balance.
Black Currant - The predominant aroma in Cabernet grapes.
Blanc de Blancs - 'White of whites', meaning a white wine made of white grapes, such as Champagne made of Chardonnay.
Blanc de Noirs - 'White of blacks' a white or blush wine made of dark (red or black) grapes, where the juice is squeezed from the grapes and fermented without skin contact.
Blending - A winemakers task, taking wines from different lots or barrels and blending them together for bottling. Traditional and regional laws and regulations dictate what particular grape varieties may be blended together to produce a specific wine. It is the winemakers decision on the percentages of each to use, with vintage often playing a crucial role in this equation.
Blunt - Strong in flavor, often alcoholic and contrarily lacking in aromatic interest and fine development on the palate.
Blush - A term for rosť, and any wine that is pink in color.
Body - The mouth feel, the weight of the wine in the mouth and on the palate. Commonly referred to as full-, medium- or light-bodied.
Bordeaux - Major wine region of Francethat produces some of the world's most famous made from Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and other minor grapes.
Bottle Sickness - A temporary condition affecting wines immediately after bottling or shipment, characterized by muted or disjointed fruit flavors. Also called bottle shock. A few days of rest and proper storage is the cure.
Bouquet - The perfume of fermented wine, often the first indicator of a wine's quality during a testing.
Brawny - Used mainly to describe young red wines and wines that are hard, intense, tannic and have raw woody flavors.
Breathing - The act of allowing a wine to mix with the air, to 'breathe', for example when wine is poured into another container, such as a decanter or wineglass. Breathing is thought to be beneficial for many red wines and also for some young, white wines.
Breed - Term reserved for wines of high quality, from the best grape varieties, often referred to as 'noble grapes'. Wines with elegance and finesse.
Briary - Describes a young wine having an earthy, prickly taste best described as peppery often with as stemmy wild berry character.
Bright - Used to describe fresh, ripe, zesty, lively young wines with vivid, focused flavors.
Brilliant - Wines with very clear appearance and no visible suspended or particulate matter. Not always thought to be positive as it can indicate some loss of flavor in highly filtered wines.
Brix - Measurement system for sugar content of grapes and wine, indicating the degree of the grapes' ripeness (meaning sugar level) at harvest. Most table-wine grapes are harvested at between 21 and 25 Brix. To get an alcohol conversion level, multiply the stated Brix by .55.
Browning - Denotes aging in a wine. Describes a wine's color, , and is a sign that a wine is mature and may be faded. A wine of good character and depth can still be most enjoyable even with a significant 'brown' tint. Wines 20 to 30 years old may have a brownish edge yet still be pleasurable.
Brut - A French term meaning 'raw' used to designate a dry finish Champagne or sparkling wine. Can be the driest wine made by a producer.
Burgundy - Region of France that is 160 miles southeast of Paris, between Dijon and Lyons. The noble grapes grown here, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, produce elegant wines with extreme finesse and subtle earthy characteristics.
Burnt - Describes a wine that has an overdone, smoky, toasty or singed edge. Also used to describe overripe grapes.
Buttery - A smell and taste sensation found in better white wines, particularly oak-aged Chardonnay.