Wine 102: Wine Glossary O-T
Oak: A type of hardwood commonly used for building wine barrels. American oak has a distinctive, bourbon-like flavor but French oak flavor is more subtle. Both types of oak barrels contribute considerable tannin and vanilla flavors to wines during aging. Most red wine and some white wines benefit from aging in oak. The tannins can help the wine age for a longer period of time. However, some people don’t like the flavors that are added by oak barrels and call the wines “oaky”…they prefer the varietal character of the grapes alone.
Phylloxera vastratrix: A century ago, this American bug almost destroyed the vineyards of Europe! Some folks thought is would be a great idea to import some American grape vines into Europe and see how they worked there. Unfortunately they didn’t realize that they were bringing along an unknown hitchhiker. That bug quickly spread thoughtout Europe eating it’s favorite food, the roots of the vines. The American rootstock was resistant to the “rootlouse”. The remedy for the the disease is the grafting of the Vitis vinifera varieties onto the native American rootstocks. And that’s why every European vine is now grafted on to American roots!
Punt: The concave indentation in the bottom of certain wine bottles, especially those containing sparkling wine. Several reasons for it can be found in literature: punts were a result of historical glass-blowing techniques…the blowpipe was attached to the neck of the bottle, and then it was transferred to a tool called a “punty” which was put on the base of the bottle and caused an indentation; to collect crystals or sediment so that the wine may be decanted easily; to reinforce the bottle; to add “apparent size” to a bottle which contains exactly the same measure as a bottle which lacks the punt; to facilitate snobbiness by allowing the sommelier to pour a wine flamboyantly, with his thumb in the punt and the bottle cradled in his other four fingers; etc, etc. You choose the reason(s) you like!
Terroir: (Pronounced teh-RWAHR) It’s French for soil. The same variety of grape vine planted in different locations can produce wines that differ greatly in terms of both structure and aroma. A Terroir is a defined area in which the physical and chemical conditions of the natural environment, the geographical location, and the climate give rise to specific and identifiable traits. So, the term really denotes the interaction of a number of factors including the soil itself, vinyard location and elevation, climate, the vines, etc.