Acetic/Acetic Acid: All wines have some traces of acetic acids, which offer a vinegar scent. Too much acetic acid destroys a wine. Acetic acids are the cause behind volatile acidity, or VA. All wines contain acetic acid, or vinegar, but usually the amount is quite small–from 0.03 percent to 0.06 percent–and not perceptible to smell or taste. Once table wines reach 0.07 percent or above, a sweet-sour vinegary smell and taste becomes evident. At low levels, acetic acid can enhance the character of a wine, but at higher levels (over 0.1 percent), it can become the dominant flavor and is considered a major flaw. A related substance, ethyl acetate, contributes a nail polish-like smell.
Acidic: Every wine requires some acidity. This quality makes a wine feel fresh, or give it lift. Too much acidity makes a wine taste sour and feel sharp, lean or angular. Not enough acidity will make a wine feel flabby. A naturally occurring component of every wine; the level of perceived sharpness; a key element to a wine’s longevity; a leading determinant of balance.
Acid/Acidity: There are numerous types of acids that are found in all wines. They include citric, tartaric, malic, and lactic. Wine from hot climates, and or hot vintages tend to be lower in acidity. Wines from cooler climates are higher in acidity. 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. It is legal in some areas–such as Bordeaux and Burgundy, Australia, California–to correct deficient acidity by adding acid. When overdone, it leads to unusually sharp, acidic wines. However, it is illegal in Bordeaux and Burgundy to both chaptalize and acidify a wine.
Aerator: A device or instrument used to add air (oxygenate) a wine.
Aeration/Aerated: What happens to a wine when you add air to help its perfume become more noticeable. The process of letting a wine “breathe” in the open air, or swirling wine in a glass. It’s debatable whether aerating bottled wines (mostly reds) improves their quality. Aeration can soften young, tannic wines; it can also fatigue older ones.
Aftertaste: This is one of the top components to a great wine. The length of time a wine spends in your mouth once you’ve finished tasting it, is much of what you pay for in a good wine. Of course assuming the flavors offer pleasure. Aftertaste means the same thing as length, finish or end note. Great wines have rich, long, complex aftertastes.
Age: Wines that can age, are of high quality as they get better with cellaring. Aged wines, are bottles that have been cellared.
Aggressive: An aggressive wine is usually too high in acidity. The term can also be used to describe wines with hard tannins. Unpleasantly harsh in taste or texture, usually due to a high level of tannin or acid.
Alcohol: Ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, the by product or end product of the fermentation process; technically ethyl alcohol resulting from the interaction of natural grape sugars and yeast; generally above 12.5 percent in dry table wines.
Alcohol By Volume: As required by law, wineries must state the alcohol level of a wine on its label. This is usually expressed as a numerical percentage of the volume. For table wines the law allows a 1.5 percent variation above or below the stated percentage as long as the alcohol does not exceed 14 percent. Thus, wineries may legally avoid revealing the actual alcohol content of their wines by labeling them as “table wine.”
Alcoholic: Used to describe a wine that has too much alcohol for its body and weight, making it unbalanced. A wine with too much alcohol will taste uncharacteristically heavy or hot as a result. This quality is noticeable in aroma and aftertaste.
Alliers: The forest region in France where Troncais grows. Wood from the Troncais oak trees produces the best oak for use in wine barrels, due to its tight grains.
Alluvial: Soil or terroir with mix of rocks, stones, gravel and sand.
Alsace: A highly regarded wine region in eastern France renowned for dry and sweet wines made from Riesling, Gewuerztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and others.
Amarone: A succulent higher-alcohol red wine hailing from the Veneto region in northern Italy; made primarily from Corvina grapes dried on racks before pressing.
American Oak: Increasingly popular as an alternative to French oak for making barrels in which to age wine as quality improves and vintners learn how to treat the wood to meet their needs. Marked by strong vanilla, dill and cedar notes, it is used primarily for aging Cabernet, Merlot and Zinfandel, for which it is the preferred oak. It’s less desirable, although used occasionally, for Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. Many California and Australia wineries use American oak, yet claim to use French oak because of its more prestigious image. American oak barrels sell in the $250 range, compared to more than $500 for the French ones.
American Viticultural Area: Also known as an AVA, specific grape growing area that is marked by its unique terroir and the wines from the region. AVA’s are granted that status by the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax and Trade. A delimited, geographical grape-growing area that has officially been given appellation status by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Two examples are Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley.
Ampelography: The study of grape varieties.
Angular: Angular wines are lean. They are the opposite of round or fleshy.
Anthocyannins: Pigments that give red wine its color.
AOC Appellation d’Origine Controllee: French Government certification awarded to select regions for agricultural product that is most often for wine or cheese also a French term for a denominated, governed wine region such as Margaux or Nuits-St.-Georges.
Appearance: Refers to a wine’s clarity, not color.
Appellation: Similar to AOC, a specific area where grapes or other agricultural products come from. For example, Pomerol in Bordeaux, or Napa in California. Defines the area where a wine’s grapes were grown, such as Bordeaux, Gevrey-Chambertin, Alexander Valley or Russian River Valley. Regulations vary widely from country to country. In order to use an appellation on a California wine label, for example, 85 percent of the grapes used to make the wine must be grown in the specified district.
Aroma/Aromatics: Aroma is used to describe the scent of a wine. A scent that is a component of the bouquet or nose; i.e. cherry is an aromatic component of a fruity bouquet. Traditionally defined as the smell that wine acquires from the grapes and from fermentation. Now it more commonly means the wine’s total smell, including changes that resulted from oak aging or that occurred in the bottle- good or bad. “Bouquet” has a similar meaning.
Assemblage: French term for the grape varieties used to blend a wine.
Astringent: Astringent wines taste hard or sharp. This happens most of the time because the tannins in a wine did not fully ripen. Describes a rough, harsh, puckery feel in the mouth, usually from tannin or high acidity, that red wines (and a few whites) have. When the harshness stands out, the wine is astringent.
Attack: The initial taste of a wine in the mouth.
Austere: Austere wines are hard, lacking charm, generosity or roundness. Some wines that taste austere in their youth shed that quality when they age. For example, this could happen with some Bordeaux wines. Generally speaking, a wine that is austere young will be austere when it’s old as well. Used to describe relatively hard, high-acid wines that lack depth and roundness. Usually said of young wines that need time to soften, or wines that lack richness and body.
AVA: Abbreviated term for American Viticultural Area. Wineries listing their AVA must contain fruit that is at least 85% from that AVA. If the wine states it is from a specific vineyard, no less than 95% of the grapes must come from that same vineyard. A denominated American wine region approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
Awkward: Describes a wine that has poor structure, is clumsy or is out of balance.
Bacchus: The Roman god of wine, known as Dionysus in ancient Greece; also a hybrid white grape from Germany.
Backbone: Used to denote those wines that are full-bodied, well-structured and balanced by a desirable level of acidity.
Backward: Backwards is used to define a wine that is tight, closed in or reserved. This means the aromatic and other qualities in the wine are not available to the taster. This is often a normal trait in young wines.
Balance: Balance is one of the key traits all great wines share, regardless of where they come from. The term is used to convey the level of harmony between acidity, tannins, fruit, oak, and other elements in a wine; a perceived quality that is more individual than scientific. A wine has balance when its elements are harmonious and no single element dominates.
Barnyard: Wines with this aroma are best described as earthy, with animal scents that remind tasters of a barn. In small doses, this can be a positive trait. In large amounts, this is a defect/fault. This can be caused by natural aromas that develop with bottle age, or in the worst cases from wines that were made in unclean barrels or facilities.
Barrel or Barrique: A vessel to age wine which is usually made from oak.
Barrel Fermented: Wines that were vinified in barrels instead of vats or tanks. This takes place more often with white wines. However, some producers barrel ferment red wine. This is known as micro-vinification. A process by which wine (usually white) is fermented in oak barrels rather than in stainless steel tanks; a richer, creamier, oakier style of wine. Denotes wine that has been fermented in small casks (usually 55-gallon oak barrels) instead of larger tanks. Advocates believe that barrel fermentation contributes greater harmony between the oak and the wine, increases body and adds complexity, texture and flavor to certain wine types. Its liabilities are that more labor is required and greater risks are involved. It is mainly used for whites.
Barrel Tasting: When a taster tries a wine directly from the barrel, before it has been bottled.
Barrique: French for ‘barrel,’ generally a barrel of 225 liters.
Batonnage: French term for stirring of the lees.
BDX: Abbreviation for Bordeaux
Beaujolais: A juicy, flavorful red wine made from Gamay grapes grown in the region of the same name.
Beaujolais Nouveau: The first Beaujolais wine of the harvest; its annual release date is the third Thursday in November.
Beefy: A big, masculine and often muscular styled wine. This is the same as brawny.
Berry: Berry is another term for grape.
Berry scented: Wines are made from grapes and yet all red wines smell like berries. They could remind you of blackberries, strawberries, cherries, black raspberries, red raspberries or even cranberry or mulberry.
Big: A big wine is one that is filled with ample amounts of ripe, normally alcoholic fruit. If the wine is in balance, this is not a problem. But wines that are too large and not in balance are not always fun to taste.
Biodynamic: Vineyard management techniques based on the writings of Rudolph Steiner that on one side, are the best organic techniques, and on the other side can include moon phases, the alignment of the planets, planting cow horns and more. Some may scoff at this which is fair enough. But it does seem to work and it’s becoming slowly but surely increasingly popular and accepted.
Bite: A marked degree of acidity or tannin. An acid grip in the finish should be more like a zestful tang and is tolerable only in a rich, full-bodied wine.
Bitter: Describes one of the four basic tastes (along with sour, salty and sweet). Some grapes–notably Gewurztraminer and Muscat–often have a noticeable bitter edge to their flavors. Another source of bitterness is tannin or stems. If the bitter quality dominates the wine’s flavor or aftertaste, it is considered a fault. In sweet wines a trace of bitterness may complement the flavors. In young red wines it can be a warning signal, as bitterness doesn’t always dissipate with age. Normally, a fine, mature wine should not be bitter on the palate.
Blanc de Blancs: “White of whites,” meaning a white wine made of white grapes; also the name for Champagne made entirely from Chardonnay grapes.
Blanc de Noirs: “White of blacks,” white wine made of red or black grapes, where the juice is squeezed from the grapes and fermented without skin contact. The wines can have a pale pink hue. (ie. Champagne that is made from Pinot Noir); also, the name for Champagne made entirely from red grapes, either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, or both.
Blend: When one or more grape varietals are used to produce the wine. The process whereby two or more grape varietals are combined after separate fermentation; common blends include Cotes de Rhone and red and white Bordeaux.
Blind Tasting: When the identity of the wine is hidden from the taster. In theory, this allows for an unbiased evaluation of the wine. Single blind means the type of wine is known to the taster, but not the specific wine. Double blind means, the taster has no prior information on the wine.
Blunt: Strong in flavor and often alcoholic, but lacking in aromatic interest and development on the palate.
Blush: A wine made from red grapes but which appears pink or salmon in color because the grape skins were removed from the fermenting juice before more color could be imparted; more commonly referred to as rosé.
Bodega: Spanish for winery; literally the ‘room where barrels are stored.’
Body: Body is a term used to describe the weight and feel of wine. Full bodied wines are normally high in alcohol. The impression of weight on one’s palate; light, medium, and full are common body qualifiers. The impression of weight or fullness on the palate; usually the result of a combination of glycerin, alcohol and sugar. Commonly expressed as full-bodied, medium-bodied or medium-weight, or light-bodied.
Bold/Boldness: Red wine with dark color, high alcohol, with concentration and intensity, that is usually in a forward style. This is my wife’s all-time favorite term when she tastes big wines that don’t agree with her palate!
Bone Dry: Descriptive term for wines that exhibit the lowest levels of “sweetness”. These wines are typically called “dry” and have < 1g/L of sugar.
Bordeaux: A city on the Garonne River in southwest France; a large wine-producing region with more than a dozen sub-regions.
Bordeaux Wine: Wines originating from the area of southwest France famous for producing many of the world’s best wines; Also, a red wine made mostly from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc; a white wine made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
Bottle Age: All quality wines need to be aged in the bottle before being opened. For some wines, this could be a few years. Other wines (for example the First Growths from Bordeaux) in select vintages require 30 years or more to become mature.
Bottled By: This term means the wine could have been purchased ready-made and simply bottled by the brand owner, or made under contract by another winery. When the label reads “produced and bottled by” or “made and bottled by” it means the winery produced the wine from start to finish.
Bottle Sickness: A temporary condition characterized by muted or disjointed fruit flavors. It often occurs immediately after bottling or when wines (usually fragile wines) are shaken in travel. Also called bottle shock. A few days of rest is typically the cure.
Botrytis Cinerea: Called the “Noble Rot.” This special fungus, is responsible for how most of the world’s sweet wines are made. See Sauternes for a more detailed explanation. A beneficial mold that causes grapes to shrivel and sugars to concentrate, resulting in sweet, unctuous wines; common botrytis wines include Sauternes, Tokay, and German beerenauslese.
Bouquet: Different than perfume, this denotes a mature, or maturing wine with secondary characteristics, other than primary fruit scents. Bouquet is the term used to describe the non grape or berry aromas a mature wine displays. The sum of a wine’s aromas; how a wine smells as a whole; a key determinant of quality. The smell that a wine develops after it has been bottled and aged. Most appropriate for mature wines that have developed complex flavors beyond basic young fruit and oak aromas.
Brawny: A big, masculine and often muscular styled wine. This is the same as beefy. Used to describe wines that are hard, intense, tannic and that have raw, woody flavors. The opposite of elegant.
Breathe/Breathing: When you allow a wine to breathe, you are giving it air, which improves the perfume and the texture of the wine. The process of letting a wine open up via the introduction of air. Initial oxidation of a wine once the bottle is opened.
Briary: Describes young wines with an earthy or stemmy wild berry character.
Bricking: When red wines mature or age, they lighten in color and move from purple, to dark red, to ruby and finally to the color of brick. This is the same term as browning.
Bright: A term used for acidic red fruits. Used for fresh, ripe, zesty, lively young wines with vivid, focused flavors.
Brilliant: Describes the appearance of very clear wines with absolutely no visible suspended or particulate matter. Not always a plus, as it can indicate a highly filtered wine.
Brix: The measurement of sugar content. A scale used to measure the level of sugar in unfermented grapes. Multiplying brix by 0.55 will yield a wine’s future alcohol level. Most table-wine grapes are harvested at between 21 and 25 Brix. A measure of soluble solids content in grapes, mostly as sucrose, using a refractometer and expressed in degrees. Each degree of brix equals 1 gram of sugar per 100 grams of grape juice. Brix is measured at harvest. Most table wines are harvested between 19 and 25 degrees brix.
Broker: In Bordeaux, a broker is the same as a Courtier, which is a person acting as the intermediary between the chateau and the negociants. Outside of Bordeaux, brokers act as an intermediary between buyers and sellers of wine.
Brooding: Wines that are brooding offer dark colors with intense concentration of flavor.
Browning: When red wines mature, they lighten in color and move from purple, dark red, to orange and then finally brown. This is the same term as bricking. Describes a wine’s color, and is a sign that a wine is mature and may be faded. A bad sign in young red (or white) wines, but less significant in older wines. Wines 20 to 30 years old may have a brownish edge yet still be enjoyable.
Brut: A French term used to describe the driest Champagnes. A general term used to designate a dry-finished Champagne or sparkling wine.
Bud burst: Term for when the vines begin to produce their first new shoots for the growing season. This takes place in the spring. This is the same term as bud break.
Bung: This is the little stopper/plug that sits in the hole on the barrel’s side that allows you to add wine or siphon off wine as needed.
Burgundy: A prominent French wine region stretching from Chablis in the north to Lyons in the south; Pinot Noir is the grape for red Burgundy, Chardonnay for white.
Burnt: Describes wines that have an overdone, smoky, toasty or singed edge. Also used to describe overripe grapes.
Buttery: Usually used for Chardonnay that has a butter, buttered popcorn character or toasty oak smell. Butter characteristics are found in richer styles of Chardonnay that were often aged in oak barrels and have finished malolactic fermentation.
Cabernet Franc: Important blending grape used in Bordeaux in the Right Bank and the Medoc. A red grape common to Bordeaux; characteristics include an herbal, leafy flavor and a soft, fleshy texture.
Cabernet Sauvignon: The key grape used to produce Bordeaux wine from the Medoc. A powerful, tannic red grape of noble heritage; the base grape for many red Bordeaux wines and most of the best red wines from California, Washington, Chile, and South Africa; capable of aging for decades.
Cap: Name for the material that forms at the top of a fermenting vat made from the seeds, stems and skin. Grape solids like pits, skins, and stems that rise to the top of a tank during fermentation; what gives red wines color, tannins and weight.
Cava: Spanish for ‘cellar,’ but also a Spanish sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne style from Xarello, Macabeo, and Parellada grapes.
Carbonated/Carbonation: A descriptive term referring to a bubbly or sparkling wine (such as Champagne), that releases carbon dioxide when opened.
Carbonic maceration: A winemaking technique, often associated with the French wine region of Beaujolais, in which whole grapes are fermented in a carbon dioxide rich environment prior to crushing. Conventional alcoholic fermentation involves crushing the grapes to free the juice and pulp from the skin with yeast serving to convert sugar into ethanol.
Cedar/Cedary: Cedar is a common scent found in Bordeaux wines from the Medoc appellations. It smells of cedar wood, or an old cedar chest.
Cellared By: A term meaning the wine was not produced at the winery where it was bottled. It usually indicates that the wine was purchased from another source.
Cepage: French term for grape varieties planted in vineyards.
Chablis: A town and wine region east of Paris known for steely, minerally Chardonnay.
Chai: French term for barrel cellar.
Champagne: A denominated region northeast of Paris in which Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes are made into sparkling wine.
Chaptalize/Chaptalization: Term for the addition of sugar to the juice prior or during fermentation for the purpose of boosting sugar levels in under-ripe grapes. This aids in the fermentation process and helps produce, sweeter, fatter wines. The process of adding sugar to fermenting grapes in order to increase alcohol.
Chardonnay: The world’s most popular white wine grape. Arguably the best and most widely planted white wine grape in the world.
Chateau: French term for an estate. Chateau is used most often in Bordeaux.
Chateaux: Plural for chateau.
Chenin Blanc: A white grape common in the Loire Valley of France.
Chianti: A scenic, hilly section of Tuscany known for fruity red wines made mostly from Sangiovese grapes.
Chewy: Chewy wines are full-bodied, dense or meaty, with a lot of texture, concentration and tannins.
Cigar Box: Descriptive term for common odors found in older Bordeaux wine. Another descriptor for a cedary aroma.
Claret: Old, archaic term used mostly in Great Britain which refers to a red Bordeaux wine. The term comes from the phonetic melding of clear and red wine.
Clarity: The amount of transparency or opaqueness of a wine. Also tied to the cloudiness of a wine due to visible sediment or particulates in the wine.
Classic: Classic is most often used for Bordeaux and California wine when the wine is less alcoholic, less ripe and more austere than modern tasters enjoy. Similar to traditional. It can be a pejorative term.
Clay: Type of soil most often found in Pomerol and Saint Emilion that is perfect for Merlot.
Clean: Fresh on the palate and aromatically, and free of any off-taste or off-smells. Does not necessarily imply good quality.
Clone: A group of vines originating from a single, individual plant propagated asexually from a single source. Clones are selected for the unique qualities of the grapes and wines they yield, such as flavor, productivity and adaptability to growing conditions.
Clos: French word Pronounced ‘Cloh,’ for a walled-in vineyard.
Closed: The term is used to describe wines that are the opposite of open. When a wine is closed, it does not allow the taster to experience the aromatics or flavors a wine has to offer. This happens most of the time with young wines, especially those from Bordeaux, which can experience a closed period before they develop secondary aromatics. Describes wines that are concentrated and have character, yet are shy in aroma or flavor.
Cloudiness: Lack of clarity to the eye. Fine for old wines with sediment, but it can be a warning signal of protein instability, yeast spoilage or re-fermentation in the bottle in younger wines.
Cloying: Wines that are cloying are too sweet, without ample acidity, making them flabby.
Cluster: A bunch of grapes.
CNDP: Abbreviation for Chateauneuf du Pape. Also written as CDP.
CO2: Carbon dioxide.
Coarse: Wines that are coarse are rough in texture and rustic by nature. Usually refers to texture, and in particular, excessive tannin or oak. Also used to describe harsh bubbles in sparkling wines.
Cold Maceration: The process before alcoholic fermentation where the temperature of the fermenting must remain low to help obtain the highest degree of extraction for additional color and aromas as well as raw materials.
Color: A key determinant of a wine’s age and quality; white wines grow darker in color as they age while red wines turn brownish orange.
Commune: French term for small village that is usually a part of an appellation.
Complex/Complexity: Complexity is an important quality in a great wine. Normally associated with aromatics, the term is used when a myriad of scents or fragrances are found in a wine’s perfume. An element in all great wines and many very good ones; a combination of richness, depth, flavor intensity, focus, balance, harmony and finesse.
Concentrated: Concentrated is the opposite of light. Concentrated wines display a wealth of fruit, richness and depth of flavor, as well as raw materials.
Concentrator: Machine that removes excess water from grapes to help concentrate the wine.
Condition: The condition of a wine is the determination of whether a wine smells as if it exhibits faults or flaws, or if it is generally clean. This does not necessarily indicate a measure of wine quality.
Cooked: A wine that suffered heat damage during storage.
Cooper: Barrel maker. A barrel maker works in a cooperage.
Cooperage: The barrels or casks that hold the wine. It can also mean the place where those barrels were made, or, the storage capacity of a winery.
Cooperative: Group of vintners from specific areas that share marketing and production costs. Some wines are produced from grapes grown by several member of the cooperative. A winery owned jointly by multiple grape growers.
Corked: Corked wines are flawed. They can smell like a wet dog or moldy newspaper. This is caused by a problem with an unclean, or poor cork infected with TCA. A wine with musty, mushroomy aromas and flavors resulting from a cork tainted by TCA (trichloroanisol).
Cote: French term for slope.
Coulure: French term for a problem that occurs during flowering that causes flowers to drop off the cluster. When this takes place, the grape cluster reduces its yields and the berries develop unevenly in size and maturity.
Courtier: Broker in Bordeaux that acts as the intermediary between the chateau and the negociants.
Creamy: When a wine has the rich texture of cream.
Crianza: A Spanish term for a red wine that has been aged in oak barrels for at least one year.
Crisp: Similar to bright. Fruit that is crisp is usually high in acidity.
Cru: French term for growth or vineyard that is often used for Classified wines. A French term for ranking a wine’s inherent quality, i.e. cru bourgeois, cru classe, premier cru, and grand cru.
Crush: Time of year when harvest and fermentation take place; when the grapes are picked and crushed.
Cuvee: This term is most often used to describe a special blend, barrel or bottling of a specific wine.
Cuvier: French term for where the vinification of the wine takes place.
Decadent: Decadence in a wine is a good thing. They are rich, sexy, opulent wines with mouth coating textures.
Decanting: Decanting is the practice of pouring wine from a bottle into a larger container. While special decanters for wine can be purchased, even an everyday pitcher will work fine. Decanting is done for two reasons. Removal of sediment from older wines, or to allow air into a young wine, for the purpose of allowing them to soften in texture and display more aromatics; The process of transferring wine from a bottle to another holding vessel.
Delestage: French term to describe the part of the wine making process when the wine is racked and returned during vinification. During delestage, the wine is moved from the fermentation vessel and put back over the cap to keep it moist and to help gain more raw material for color and flavor.
Delicate: Light wines are delicate. This is not a quality to seek in Bordeaux. It is better suited for some white wines and Pinot Noir.
Demi-Sec: In the language of Champagne, a term relating to sweetness. It can be misleading; although demi-sec means half-dry, demi-sec sparkling wines are usually slightly sweet to medium sweet.
Denominacion de Origen: Spanish for ‘appellation of origin;’ like the French AOC or Italian DOC.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata: Italian for a controlled wine region; similar to the French AOC or Spanish DO.
Dense: Dense wines are filled with high levels of raw material giving the wine concentration. This is positive. Describes a wine that has concentrated aromas on the nose and palate. A good sign in young wines.
Depth: Wines with depth have layers of flavor and concentration making the wine feel deep. This is a good quality. Opposite of shallow.
Dessert Wine: Created for tax purposes, dessert wines are wines high in alcohol ranging from 14% to 24% alcohol. Many riper styles of California Cabernet Sauvignon are classified as dessert wine, due to their high alcohol levels.
Destemming: Not used in every region, destemming is the removal of the grapes from the stems.
Desuckering: The process of removing shoots that are not fruit bearing.
Dirty: Covers any and all foul, rank, off-putting smells that can occur in a wine, including those caused by bad barrels or corks. A sign of poor winemaking.
Disgorge: The process by which final sediments are removed from traditionally made sparkling wines prior to the adding of the dosage.
Domaine: French term for an estate. This is used most in The Rhone Valley and Burgundy.
Dosage: A sweetened spirit added at the very end to Champagne and other traditionally made sparkling wines. It determines whether a wine is brut, extra dry, dry, or semisweet.
Double Blind: When wines are double blind tasted, no information of any type is given to the tasters.
Double Decanting: Double decanting is the act of pouring wine from the bottle into a decanter. Washing the bottle out with clean water to remove any sediment and then pouring the wine back into the original bottle.
Douro: A river in Portugal as well as the wine region famous for producing Port wines.
Dry: Dry wines are red or white wines where all the residual sugar has been fermented. A wine containing no more than 0.2 percent unfermented sugar. Most wine tasters begin to perceive sugar at levels of 0.5 percent to 0.7 percent. In wine terms, dry is the opposite of sweet.
Drying Out: When a wine is drying out, it is over the hill and losing its fruit.
Dumb: Wines that are dumb have little to offer. They are closed.
Early Harvest: Denotes a wine made from early-harvested grapes, usually lower than average in alcoholic content or sweetness.
Earth/Earthy/Earthiness: Earthy wines smell of mushrooms, forest floor or truffles. This is a positive attribute that is experienced in older wines, especially Bordeaux wines. A term used to describe aromas and flavors that have a certain soil-like quality. Term used to describe both positive and negative attributes in wine. At its best, a pleasant, clean quality that adds complexity to aroma and flavors. The flip side is a funky, barnyardy character that borders on or crosses into dirtiness. This term includes both organic (mushroom, forest floor, etc.) and inorganic (chalk, gravel, slate, clay, etc.) examples.
Echantillon: French term for sample bottle used most often with barrel samples.
Effeuillage: French term for the removal of the lower leaves from the vines that will allow more sun to hit the grapes directly, which will aid in the ripening of the fruit.
Elegant/Elegance: Wines with elegance are in balance with soft, refined characteristics and textures. They are never heavy. Term used to describe grace, balance and beauty of a wine.
Elevage: French term for the time a wine spends aging in the barrel.
Endnote: Similar to end or finish. It is the sensation of flavors your palate experiences long after you have already enjoyed and swallowed the wine in your glass. The longer the endnote or finish, in most cases, the better the wine.
Enology: The science of wine production; an enologist is a professional winemaker; an enophile is someone who enjoys wine. Also spelled oenology.
En Primeur: The same term as futures. This usually applies only for wines from Bordeaux.
Estate Bottled: Term mostly used for American wineries. Estate bottled wines are required to use 100% of the grapes from vineyards controlled or owned by the winery and must come from the same AVA, American Viticultural Area where the winery is located. Bottling must take place at the winery.
Esters: Volatile aromatic compounds that are a major source of scent and flavor in many fruits as well as in wine.
Exotic: Positive term used to denote unique, opulent textures of a special nature that are only found in the best of wines, in select vintages.
Expansive: Wines that expand their range of flavors and textures especially on the finish.
Extract: The raw materials found in a wine that are not water, sugar, alcohol or acidity. These raw materials make up the actual soul of the wine. Interestingly, they are on average between 1% and 1.5% of a wine.
Exuberant: This term is most often used for young wines that are fresh, lively and showy.
Fading: Wines that are fading are drying out and losing their fruit.
Fat: Wines that are fat are usually concentrated with a lot of round textured flavors. This can be a good quality. However, as you will see, flabby wines are not good. Full-bodied, high alcohol wines low in acidity give a “fat” impression on the palate. Can be a plus with bold, ripe, rich flavors; can also suggest the wine’s structure is suspect.
Fault/Flaw: A term denoting a generally negative attribute that characterizes a wine. Examples of wine faults or flaws include: too much oxidation, cork taint, sulfur compounds, secondary fermentation, heat damage, UV light damage, microbial/bacterial taint, etc.
Feminine: Similar to elegant, but lighter in concentration.
Fermage: French term for tenant farming. In modern terms, this is similar to a leasing arrangement.
Fermentation: The process of turning sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide, also known as alcoholic fermentation; how grape juice interacts with yeast to become wine.
Field Blend: Multiple grape varieties planted in the same vineyard that are usually harvested and vinified at the same time.
Fifth Growth: Term for chateau in the 1855 Classification of the Medoc that earned the fifth highest level of classification.
Filtered/Filtration: Filtering is the process of removing solid particles by having the wine move through a filter. The process by which wine is clarified before bottling.
Fine Lees: Following fermentation, some wines are aged on their fine lees. This is also known as aging sur lie. Fine lees, which are primarily dead yeast cells are created during the fermentation process and are used to add more richness, complexity and aromatics to a wine.
Finesse: Wines with finesse are elegant.
Fining: Fining is done to remove various particles in a wine which would render the wine unclear or cloudy. Agents used for fining include egg whites, or clay. A technique for clarifying wine using agents such as bentonite (powdered clay), gelatin or egg whites, which combine with sediment particles and cause them to settle to the bottom, where they can be easily removed.
Finish: The finish, which is similar to end note, is the sensation of flavors your palate experiences long after you have already enjoyed and swallowed the wine. The key to judging a wine’s quality is finish, also called aftertaste–a measure of the taste or flavors that linger in the mouth after the wine is tasted. Great wines have rich, long, complex finishes.
Firm: Wines that are firm are tannic and structured.
First Growths: Term for the absolute top Bordeaux wines, as defined by the French Government in the official 1855 Classification of Bordeaux wine.
Flabby: Flabby wines are low in acidity and lie there in your mouth. They are heavy and not fun to taste.
Fleshy: Fleshy wines are full bodied, concentrated and have round or opulent textures. Soft and smooth in texture, with very little tannin.
Flight: When more than one wine is poured at the same time.
Flinty: A descriptor for extremely dry white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, whose bouquet is reminiscent of flint struck against steel.
Floral: Literally, having the characteristic aromas of flowers. Mostly associated with white wines. However, both red and white wines can be floral. For example Bordeaux wine from Pomerol and Bordeaux wine from Margaux often display floral components.
Flowering: The time of year that the initial floral blossoms form on the grape vine.
Fortified/Fortified Wine: Fortified wine is produced by the addition of brandy or other spirits; A wine in which brandy is introduced during fermentation – sugars and sweetness are high due to the suspended fermentation.
Forward: Forward denotes a young wine that is open or accessible to tasters.
Foudre: Massive oak vats that are used most often in the Rhone Valley during the aging process.
Fourth Growth: Term for chateau in the 1855 Classification of the Medoc that earned the fourth highest level of classification.
Four Square: A British term for a wine that is simple, classic and one dimensional.
Free-Run Juice: The juice that escapes after the grape skins are crushed or squeezed prior to fermentation.
French Oak: The traditional name for wine barrels that supply vanilla, cedar and sometimes butterscotch flavors. Used for red and white wines.
Fresh: Freshness is a good quality. It comes from acidity. Wines with ample freshness have lift. Having a lively, clean and fruity character. An essential attribute for young wines.
Fruit Character: A descriptive word characterizing the state of the fruit a person can smell or taste in a wine. Examples include ripe, tart, dried, jammy, etc.
Fruit Set: The time of year when the fertilized flowers morph into small grape bunches.
Fruit/Fruity/Fruitiness: Fruity wines are often simple wines. This is not a positive attribute because good wines need more than fruit. Having the aroma and taste of fruit or fruits. This term is also used as a descriptive term to characterize the type of fruit in a wine. Examples can be general, such as red, black or blue fruit, or more specific, such as strawberry, blackberry, or dark cherry.
Full-bodied: Full bodied wines are most often high in alcohol, glycerin and concentration. See “Heavy”.
Fumé Blanc: A name created by Robert Mondavi to describe dry Sauvignon Blanc.
Futures: Futures are how the top Bordeaux chateaux sell their wine. Chateaux offer their wines for sale in June following the vintage, close to 18 months before bottling and about two years prior to delivery. In the best vintages, consumers who purchase futures, often pay less for the wines than when they are in bottle. Futures should only be bought for the very best vintages.
Gamay: A red grape exceedingly popular in the Beaujolais region of France.
Gamey: Wines with gamey aromas smell of meat, barnyards and/or earth. A little bit of this goes a long way.
Garagiste: Out of date term for a movement of small producers in the Right Bank of Bordeaux who were making wine in their home or garage.
Garrigue: This French term describes a fragrance of earth, herbs and other scents found in typical Provencal open markets.
Gewürztraminer: A sweet and spicy white grape popular in eastern France, Germany, Austria, northern Italy, and California.
Glycerin: Glycerin, produced during fermentation adds to the texture of a wine and its body. This is a positive term.
Graft: A vineyard technique in which the bud-producing part of a grapevine is attached to an existing root.
Grand Cru: French term translated into Great Growth as the wine comes from the highest level of terroir.
Grand Cru Classe: French term for use in Classification’s, for example, there are Five Growths in the Medoc that are all Grand Cru Classe. The term is also used in the Classification of St. Emilion.
Gran Reserva: A Spanish term used for wines that are aged in wood and bottles for at least five years prior to release.
Grand Vin: The best wine made from an estate, usually in France and most often from Bordeaux.
Granite: Granite soils are found in many regions, but it is quite predominate in the Northern Rhone Valley.
Grapey: Characterized by simple flavors and aromas associated with fresh table grapes; distinct from the more complex fruit flavors (currant, black cherry, fig or apricot) found in fine wines.
Grassy: A signature descriptor for Sauvignon Blanc and a pleasant one unless overbearing and pungent.
Gravel: Gravel, along with other rocks and stones are an important part of many wine regions, especially Bordeaux, and California, for Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
Gravity Cellars: Gentle method for moving wine without using pumps and only using the force of gravity.
Green: Green wines are produced from unripe grapes. They display vegatal characteristics. This is not typically perceived as a positive term but can be pleasant in Riesling and Gewurztraminer.
Green Harvest: Green harvesting is when a grower removes unripe grapes to help lower yields and increase the concentration for the remaining grapes.
Grenache/Garnacha (Spanish): The most important grape used to produce wine in the Southern Rhone valley. A hearty, productive red grape popular in southern France as well as in Spain, where it is called Garnacha.
Grip: Used more often by British tasters to denote firm, tannic wines. A welcome firmness of texture, usually from tannin, which helps give definition to wines such as Cabernet and Port.
Grown, Produced and Bottled: Means the winery handled each aspect of wine creation.
Growth: In the official 1855 Classification of the Medoc, the top Bordeaux Wines were ranked using the term growth; First Growth, Second Growth, Third Growth, Fourth Growth and Fifth Growth.
Grüner Veltliner: A white grape popular in Austria that makes lean, fruity, racy wines.
GSM: A wine blended from Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre grapes.
Half-Bottle: Smaller format bottles holding 375 milliliters or 3/8 liter.
Hard: Wines that are hard have rough tannins often with high acidity. Often a descriptor for young red wines.
Harmonious: Well balanced, with no component obtrusive or lacking.
Harsh: Used to describe astringent wines that are tannic or high in alcohol.
Haut: A French word meaning ‘high.’ It applies to quality as well as altitude.
Hazy: Used to describe a wine that has small amounts of visible matter. A good quality if a wine is unfined and unfiltered.
Heady: Term used to describe high-alcohol wines.
Hearty: Used to describe the full, warm, sometimes rustic qualities found in red wines with high alcohol.
Heavy: Descriptive term for wines with a rich, mouth coating texture; associated with wines that have an alcohol level of more than 14%.
Hectare: European term of land measurement that is equal to 10,000 square meters or 2.47 acres of land. All French vineyards are measured in hectares.
Hectoliter: European term of measurement for liquid that for example is equal to 100 liters or 26.4 gallons. Yields are arrived at by measuring the number of hectoliters per hectare in all French and most European vineyards. In America, it is counted by the number of tons per acre. A hectoliter produces roughly 10 cases of wine.
Herbal/Herbaceous: Herbaceous is like hot chili peppers. Herbaceous wines smell of herbs. A little is nice, too much and the wine is taken over by the herbal qualities and loses its sense of fruit. An aroma or flavor similar to green; often an indication of under-ripe grapes or fruit grown in a cool climate. Denotes the taste and smell of herbs in a wine. A plus in many wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, and to a lesser extent Merlot and Cabernet. Herbal is a synonym.
Hollow: Hollow wines are missing the middle between the first sensation of flavor, the attack and the finish. They lack fruit. A term used to describe a wine that doesn’t have depth or body.
Honeyed: A common trait in sweet wine whites which have a honey character.
Horizontal Tasting: Wines that are served in peer group flights from the same vintage.
Hot: A defect in wine. Heat is noted when too much alcohol for the style of wine has been produced. High alcohol, unbalanced wines that tend to burn with “heat” on the finish are called hot. Acceptable in Port-style wines.
Hungarian Oak: European oak (sourced from Hungary) that is popular for fabrication of wine barrels. Hungary sells approximately 40,000 barrels a year to places such as California, Spain, France, Italy, Australia, China and South Africa. There a two types of oak from Hungary, one generally provides more heft to wine, while the other yields more elegance. Hungarian oak generally has higher levels of sweetness from triterpenoid compounds, tighter grains and slower growth, which can boost aromatic concentrations in wine.
Hybrid: The genetic crossing of two or more grape types; common hybrids include Mueller-Thurgau and Bacchus
Ice Wine: Low alcohol sweet wine. From the German eiswein, this is a wine made from frozen grapes; Germany, Austria and Canada are leading ice wine producers.
Intensity: Intensity in wine is a good thing that takes place when ample flavor keeps the taster focused.
Irrigation: Adding water to vines. This is not legal in most areas of Europe for vines that are more than 3 years of age.
Jammy: Jammy wines are extremely ripe at their best, and over ripe at their worst. They taste and smell of scents of jam and can contain hints of raisins or prunes.
Jeroboam: An oversized bottle equal to six regular 750 ml bottles.
Kabinett: A German term for a wine of quality; usually the driest of Germany’s best Rieslings.
Kosher: A wine made according to strict Jewish rules under rabbinical supervision.
Labrusca: Grape types native to North America such as Concord and Catawba.
Lactic Acid: A smooth textured acid that is the by-product of malolactic fermentation. This is the same acid that is also found in milk.
Lactone: Aromatic ester found in oak barrels that contributes to oaky flavor in wine.
Late Harvest: Late Harvest wines are sweet wines produced from grapes that are allowed to over ripen on the vine. 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. On labels, this indicates that a wine was made from grapes picked later than normal and at a higher sugar (Brix) level than normal. Usually associated with dessert-style wines.
Lay Down: Similar term to cellaring. Wines that require laying down, are wines that need time in the cellar to age.
Layers/Layering: A descriptive wine term for wines that exhibit simultaneous or sequential layers of flavor or sensations as you drink it. This typically refers to the presence of many positive or pleasing flavors that have developed over time through aging.
Leafy: Leafy wines are vegetal. Describes the slightly herbaceous, vegetal quality reminiscent of leaves. Can be a positive or a negative, depending on whether it adds to or detracts from a wine’s flavor.
Lean: Lean wines are not concentrated and they have hard edges. They do not offer charm. A not necessarily critical term used to describe wines made in an austere style. When used as a term of criticism, it indicates a wine is lacking in fruit.
Lees: The by-product of the fermentation that is created from the seeds, stems, pulp, yeast cells and tartrates. Heavy sediment left in the barrel by fermenting wines; a combination of spent yeast cells and grape solids. Often used as in sur lie aging, which indicates a wine is aged “on its lees.”
Left Bank: The term denotes an area of Bordeaux, located to the left of the river that is the home of Medoc, where wines from Margaux, St. Julien, Pauillac and St. Estephe come from.
Legs: The clear, viscous tears that run down the side of your glass after swirling your wine. The tears or legs are formed from the glycerin in the wine. This, along with color, are the first two things a taster notices in a wine. A term used to describe how wine sticks to the inside of a wineglass after drinking or swirling.
Length: The amount of time the flavor sensations remain in your mouth and on your palate after you have swallowed the wine. A substantial length denotes a high quality wine. See “Finish”.
Lift: The refreshing sensation offered from a wine. Lift comes from acidity. Without lift, a wine would feel fat and flabby on your palate.
Limestone: Made from fossilized seashells and chalk, this type of soil is key for many white wine regions, and in Bordeaux, especially the Right Bank, in St. Emilion, for Cabernet Franc and Merlot, to a lesser degree.
Limousin: Large oak forest in France, with trees used to produce wine barrels.
Linear: Linear wines offer flavors that remain on the same path and do not change. For example, in the mouth, a dark fruited wine will not change in flavor to red berries.
Lingering: Used to describe the flavor and persistence of flavor in a wine after tasting. When the aftertaste remains on the palate for several seconds, it is said to be lingering.
Lively: Similar to lift, showing freshness in its character. Describes wines that are fresh and fruity, bright and vivacious.
Loire: A river in central France as well as a wine region famous for Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Franc.
Long: A positive trait. The longer the flavors and aromatics remain in your senses, the better the wine.
Lush: Lush wines are rich, opulent, glycerin filled and often sexy! Wines that are high in residual sugar and taste soft or viscous are called lush.
Maceration: Time during vinification when the grapes, seeds, skins, pulp and stems allow their materials to be extracted, adding color, flavor, tannins and raw material to the wine. The process of allowing grape juice and skins to ferment together, thereby imparting color, tannins, and aromas. During fermentation, the steeping of the grape skins and solids in the wine, where alcohol acts as a solvent to extract color, tannin and aroma from the skins.
Made and Bottled By: Indicates only that the winery crushed, fermented and bottled a minimum of 10 percent of the wine in the bottle. Very misleading.
Madeira: A fortified wine that has been made on a Portuguese island off the coast of Morocco since the fifteenth century.
Maderization: What happens to wine through oxidation. Wines that are maderized show aged colors and a lack of fruit, similar to what is found in Madeira wine. Stemming from the word Madeira, this term means oxidization in a hot environment.
Malolactic Fermentation: Also seen as malo, this is the process where hard, malic acids which are natural in a wine are transformed into softer, lactic acids. A secondary fermentation, often occurring in barrels, whereby harsher malic acid is converted into creamier lactic acid and carbon dioxide thus reducing the wine’s total acidity. This process adds complexity to whites such as Chardonnay and softens reds such as Cabernet and Merlot.
Magnum: A large format1.5 ml bottle equal to two regular 750 ml bottles.
Malbec: A hearty red grape of French origin now exceedingly popular in Argentina.
Malic: Describes the green apple-like flavor found in young grapes which diminishes as they ripen and mature.
Masculine: Strong, powerful, concentrated, tannic wines.
Massive: This is a difficult term. For some wines like Californian or Rhone, it can be a positive trait. For other appellations, this is not positive.
Mature: A mature wine has aged to the point in time that all its elements come together; tannins, fruit and acid. At this time, the wine has also taken on secondary aromas and flavors.
Meaty: Describes red wines that show plenty of concentration and a chewy quality. They may even have an aroma of cooked meat.
Medium Bodied: Term for wines lacking the same level of concentration found in full bodied wines.
Medoc: The Medoc is a large area in the Left Bank of Bordeaux known for great red wines, that is the home to Margaux, St. Julien, Pauillac and St. Estephe, three leading AOCs in the Medoc.
Meritage: The term was created by California winemakers for wines made from Bordeaux style blends that contain various amounts of any, or all of the 6 main Bordeaux grape varieties. The term arose out of the need to name wines that didn’t meet minimal labeling requirements for varietals (i.e., 75 percent of the named grape variety). For reds, the grapes allowed are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, Malbec and Carménère; for whites, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. Joseph Phelps Insignia is an example of a wine whose blends vary each year, with no one grape dominating.
Merlot: A lauded red grape popular in Bordeaux and throughout the world; large amounts of Merlot exist in Italy, the United States, South America, and elsewhere.
Methode Champenoise: The labor-intensive and costly process whereby wine undergoes a secondary fermentation inside the bottle, creating bubbles. All Champagne and most high-quality sparkling wine is made by this process.
Microclimate: Climate conditions that take place in small, localized, specific areas, for example a single vineyard in a larger region or appellation.
Micro-Oxygenation: A technique developed to help wines taste better when young, especially during barrel tasting. Micro oxygenation, used most often with grapes from warm weather climates involves adding small amounts of oxygen into the wine.
Micro-Vinification: Wines made using micro-vinification are barrel fermented. This term is used when red wines are vinified in the barrel.
Mid-Palate: The mid-palate is the middle of the wine tasting sensation that takes place after the initial taste and the finish. This is the point in time where the majority of the flavors are released and experienced.
Mild: Descriptive term for wine that is low in aromatic or flavor intensity.
Millerandage: French term for what happens when an irregular fruit set takes place and the berries in each cluster are not uniform in size and have developed at different stages and rates of maturity. This is also known as hens and chicks.
Mineral/Minerality: This aroma or flavor comes from grapes grown in intense, rocky, mineral laden soils. The sensation is of crushed rocks, stone or cement. This is a unique and desirable quality. This term can be used instead of stone.
Monocepage: This term describes a wine made from only one specific grape varietal.
Monopole: Wines that are monopoles come from a single vineyard.
Mouthfeel: The textural sensation that takes place when drinking wine.
Mouth-Filling: Concentrated wines with enough volume to take up what feels like your entire mouth with flavor.
Must: Freshly pressed juice, seeds, skins and sometimes stems; crushed grapes about to go or going through fermentation. Also, grape juice in the cask or vat before it is converted into wine.
Musty: Old wines from bottles can show musty flavors. Corked wines can be moldy as well. Having an off-putting moldy or mildewy smell. The result of a wine being made from moldy grapes, stored in improperly cleaned tanks and barrels, or contaminated by a poor cork.
MW: A prestigious title for a person that has studied and passed the Masters of Wine examination.
Nebbiolo: A red grape popular in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy; the grape that yields both Barolo and Barbaresco.
Negociant: Negociants are similiar to wholesalers. Most Bordeaux chateaux do not sell wine to customers. In almost every case, they only sell their wine to Negociants who agree to purchase the wine in every vintage. Negociants resell the wine to a myriad of clients for examples, importers, wholesalers, large merchants etc.; A French term for a person or company that buys wines from others and then labels it under his or her own name; stems from the French word for ‘shipper.’ Particularly found in Burgundy. Two well-known examples are Joseph Drouhin and Louis Jadot.
Nervous: Nervous wines offer higher levels of acidity and brighter flavors. Similar to racy or nervy.
Neutral Barrel: An oak barrel that has been used to store wine for at least 3 years, reducing its ability to impart new oak flavors.
New Oak: The first time a barrel has been used to age wine. Barrels can be used numerous times.
New World: New World wines come from countries that used to be colonies, including the U.S., and are generally found in hotter climates causing New World wines to be fuller bodied and have bolder fruit flavors. They also tend to be higher in alcohol. In regions considered as “New World”, the winemaking practices vary dramatically, and there is much experimentation. New World winemakers generally place less emphasis on making wine the same way it has been made for centuries, and place more emphasis on making wine that takes advantage of modern advances.
Noble Rot: Grapes that have been attacked by Botrytis, which is needed for the production of many sweet wines, especially in Sauternes.
Non-Fruit: A descriptive term assigned to a wine characteristic that is tasted or smelled that is not fruit related. Examples include floral, vegetal, herbal, spice, animal, barn, petrol, and fermentation.
Nonvintage: Blended from more than one vintage. This allows the vintner to keep a house style from year to year. Many Champagnes and sparkling wines are non vintage.
Nose: The character of a wine as determined by the olfactory sense. This common term is used in the same way as perfume or aromatics. Synonymous with bouquet; the sum of a wine’s aromas.
Nouveau: A style of light, fruity, youthful red wine bottled and sold as soon as possible. Applies mostly to Beaujolais.
Nutty: Most often used to describe oxidized wines. Often a flaw, but it can also be a useful descriptor for sweet wines made from grapes attacked by Botrytis.
Oak/Oaky: Wines that are too oaky, often smell of vanilla. Those wines usually spent time in French oak barrels. Wines that are oaky that resided in American oak, often smell of dill pickle; A term used to describe woody aromas and flavors; butter, popcorn, and toast notes are found in ‘oaky’ wines. Can be either positive or negative. The terms toasty, vanilla, dill, cedary and smoky indicate the desirable qualities of oak; finally, charred, burnt, green cedar, lumber and plywood describe its unpleasant side.
Oenology: The same as enology, which is the study of wine and wine making.
Oenophobia: The fear of wine.
Off: Off wines are bottles that have been known to display correct aromatics and flavors, but for some reason, that specific bottle is not at the same level. This could be due to the seal of the cork, storage, exposure to heat or various other reasons.
Off-Dry: Indicates a slightly sweet wine in which the residual sugar is barely perceptible: 0.6 percent to 1.4 percent.
Oidium: French term for Downey mildew, a fungal disease.
Old Vines: In French, old vines is written as Vieilles Vignes. Grapes from old vines have a minimum of 35 years of age. Old vines can produce better, more concentrated fruit, with naturally lower yields. Vines in some regions like Chateauneuf du Pape can be more than 100 years of age.
Old World: The term Old World refers to wines made in countries that are considered the birthplaces of wine, such as Europe and the Middle East. Old World wines tend to be lighter-bodied, more restrained, and lower in alcohol (this is a generalization and not always true). Old World winemaking protocols and practices are heavily restricted, with guidelines all wineries must follow. Old World winemakers have been making wine a certain way for centuries, and current winemakers in these countries are held to those old standards.
Open: Open refers to young wines that display their character and flavors early. The opposite of closed.
Open Top Fermenters: The same vat or tank as the traditional vessel used for vinification, but lacking a permanent top, so that the vessel remains open. This is mostly for red wines.
Optical Sorter: Fast and effective method of sorting grapes after harvest using optical technology for image analysis. Optical sorting helps remove unripe and over ripe berries as well as unwanted vegetal material by the size and color of the grapes.
Opulent: Opulent wines offer sensuous textures and richness. This is highly desirable.
Organic: Grapes grown without the aid of chemical-based fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides.
Overripe: Overripe is a misused term. This is because people’s perceptions of ripeness seem to vary. Overripe wines smell of prunes, raisins, cola and other scents.
Oxidized/Oxidation: Oxidized wines have experienced too much air. They are no longer fresh, can become brown or bricky in color and taste like Sherry or old apples. Oxidized wines are also called maderized or sherrified.
Palate: Technically, the soft flesh of the mouth and tongue, where your taste-sensory abilities reside; also used informally to refer to a person’s sensitivity to tastes and smells, or their wine preferences.
Parkerized: Term without real meaning, often used by fans of traditional wines when wines are richer, sweeter, softer and more alcoholic than they prefer. Term refers to wines that Robert Parker likes.
Peak: The time when a wine tastes its best–very subjective.
Peer Group: Wines in peer groups are usually related by the vintage, appellation and/or producer.
Peppery: A peppery wine is just that, the wine can smell of fresh black or white pepper. Peppery wines often come from Rhone.
Perfume/Perfumed: All wines have perfume. Wines with bottle age develop secondary, non fruit aromas. Describes the strong, usually sweet and floral aromas of some white wines.
Petit Chateau: Small estates, which can produce fine wine, but the property is not well known, either because it is located in a less famous wine region, or it is a small vineyard that is not renowned. Some of the best value wines in a region can come from Petit Chateau.
pH: Term of measure for acidity or alkalinity in a wine. Wines with high pH have low acidity. Wines with low pH have high acidity. Used by some wineries as a measurement of ripeness in relation to acidity. Low pH wines taste tart and crisp; higher pH wines are more susceptible to bacterial growth. A range of 3.0 to 3.4 is desirable for white wines, while 3.3 to 3.6 is typically considered best for reds.
Phenols/Phenolics: Phenolics are the important color and flavor compounds (such as tannins and anthocyanins) produced from the pulp, skins, seeds and stems of the grapes. Many are antioxidants with natural preservative properties.
Phenolic Ripeness: The changes that occur in the tannins, grape seeds, skins and stems when the fruit is fully ripe. This is the same term as Physiological Ripeness which is when the tannins, grape seeds, skins and stems are fully ripe.
Phylloxera: Small insects (a voracious vine louse) that attack grape vines. The Phylloxera epidemic destroyed most vineyards in Europe in the late 1800’s and are also responsible for the destruction of California vineyards in the 1980’s as well.
Piedmont: An area in northwest Italy known for Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Dolcetto, and Moscato.
Pigeage: A winemaking technique of punching down the cap of grape skins that form during fermentation.
Pinot Blanc: A white grape popular in Alsace, Germany, and elsewhere.
Pinot Gris: Also called Pinot Grigio, this is a grayish-purple grape that yields a white wine with a refreshing character.
Pinot Noir: The prime red grape of Burgundy, Champagne, and Oregon.
Pinotage: A hybrid between Pinot Noir and Cinsault that is grown almost exclusively in South Africa.
Place de Bordeaux: Name for where the buying and selling from Bordeaux negociants and merchants takes place.
Plonk: An inexpensive, moderate-to-poor wine without much character.
Plummy: Wines that taste of plums are usually round in texture as well. Pomerol and St. Emilion produce plummy wines.
Plush: Plush wines feel polished, rich, opulent or supple in the mouth. This is a good quality in a wine.
Polished: Wines that are polished are soft, silky, elegant and round, this comes from very ripe and refined tannins.
Pomace: Once the juice is drained from the vat (after fermentation), what remains is the pomace, which consist of the seeds, skin and stems. This is used to produce the press wine; used to make grappa in Italy and marc in France.
Ponderous: A big, powerful, very concentrated wine.
Pop and Pour: Common method of opening a wine bottle by the act of simply removing the cork and pouring the wine. Popped and poured wines are not decanted.
Port: Rich, alcoholic, sweet, fortified wine produced in the Oporto region of Portugal; A sweet, fortified wine made in the Douro Valley of Portugal and aged in the coastal town of Vila Nova de Gaia; variations include Vintage, Tawny, Late Bottled Vintage, Ruby, White, and others.
Port like: Dry red wine that is described as Port like, are very thick, rich, concentrated and ripe. This can be a positive trait in many wines and a negative in others.
Powerful: Powerful wines are concentrated with raw material, flavor and tannin.
Premier Cru: French for ‘first growth;’ a high-quality vineyard but one not as good as grand cru.
Premox: Extreme flaw in supposedly ageworthy white wine caused by the premature oxidation of the wine, resulting in dark colors, maderized aromas and off flavors. This is most often seen in white Burgundy, but it has appeared in other white wines as well.
Press/Pressing: The process by which grape juice is extracted prior to fermentation; a machine that extracts juice from grapes.
Press Wine: Essentially the second pressing of the pomace, which is made from the grape skins, seeds and pulp after the fermented juice is removed from the solid materials. Press wine provides more tannins, color and potential flavors and can be blended in or not, depending on the vintage and the choice of the wine maker.
Primeur (en): A French term for wine sold while it is still in the barrels; known as ‘futures’ in English-speaking countries.
Private Reserve: This description, along with Reserve, once stood for the best wines a winery produced, but lacking a legal definition many wineries use it or a spin-off (such as Proprietor’s Reserve) for rather ordinary wines. Depending upon the producer, it may still signify excellent quality.
Produced and Bottled By: Indicates that the winery crushed, fermented and bottled at least 75 percent of the wine in the bottle.
Pruney/Pruny: Wines produced from grapes that are too ripe and become overly jammy, are said to be pruney. Having the flavor of overripe, dried-out grapes. Can add complexity in the right dose.
Pruning: Done to reduce yields in the winter, pruning involves the cutting and removal of different parts of the vines; The annual vineyard chore of trimming back plants from the previous harvest.
Pump Over: Pump overs are what takes place when the wine is removed from the bottom of the vat and returned to the vat, which adds air and keeps the cap wet and submerged. This is also known as remontage.
Punch Down: A delicate way of stirring wine where skins are kept from getting too extracted and reduce or eliminate the addition of oxygen in the fermentation process.
Punt: Indentation at the bottom of a wine bottle.
Pure: Purity is a good thing in a wine, and hard to find. Wine with purity allows the true expression of the fruit to come through. Think of tasting a sweet, ripe berry off the vine.
QPR: Quality, price ratio. A way to value a wine. Most of the time, this is for value wines.
Quaffer: Usually inexpensive wine without faults that is easy to drink on release.
Racking: During the racking process, the wine is moved from one barrel to a different barrel to add air and to allow for the removal of any sediment.
Racy: Racy wines offer higher levels of acidity. Similar to nervous or nervy.
Raisiny: Similar to pruney, but with raisin flavors as opposed to prunes. Raisin characteristics develop in over ripe fruit. Having the taste of raisins from ultra-ripe or over-ripe grapes. Can be pleasant in small doses in some wines.
Ratings: Ratings are numbers given to wines to show how a taster ranks them against other wines in a similar peer group.
Raw: Young and undeveloped. A good descriptor of barrel samples of red wine. Raw wines are often tannic and high in alcohol or acidity.
Recork: Removal and replacement of the original cork, due to age. In France, corks can be marked “Rebouchée.”
Red Table Wine: Created for tax purposes, red table wines vary in alcohol from 11%-14%. This is the same as a Table Wine.
Reduction: A wine that has just completed fermentation requires finished oxygen to develop correctly. Oak barrels are the perfect vessel, as they allow the correct amount of oxygen to enter the wine. When the wine does not receive ample oxygen, it becomes reduced. The lack of oxygen allows sulfur into the wine, resulting in a wine that smells dirty, like rotten vegetables or worse.
Reserva: A Spanish term for a red wine that has spent at least three years in barrels and bottles before release.
Reserve: Over used term that can have different meanings, depending on the producer. Most of the time, it refers to a producer higher quality wine.
Residual Sugar: Residual Sugar or RS is the unfermented sugar that remains in a finished wine.
Rhône: A river in southwest France surrounded by villages producing wines mostly from Syrah; the name of the wine-producing valley in France.
Rich: Wines that are rich display ample texture, body and flavor, along with a long finish.
Riddling: The process of rotating Champagne bottles in order to shift sediment toward the cork.
Riesling: Along with Chardonnay, one of the top white grapes in the world; most popular in Germany, Alsace, and Austria.
Rioja: A well-known region in Spain known for traditional red wines made from the Tempranillo grape.
Right Bank: The Right Bank is the home to Bordeaux wines from Pomerol, St. Emilion and other wines in that area.
Rim Variation: The variation in the color/hue of the wine along the edges of the wine when the glass is tipped and wine is spread about the side of the wineglass and close to the rim. In this manner, one can qualitatively assess the variation in color and hue from the center portions of the wine volume to the edge or “rim” of the wine volume, and better understand the age of the wine.
Ripe: A ripe wine is one that is produced when the wine is ripe, when its grapes have reached the optimum level of maturity.
Robust: Means full-bodied, intense and vigorous, perhaps a bit overblown.
Rosé: French for “pink” and used to describe a category of refreshing wines that are pink in color but are made from red grapes.
Round: Round wines feel opulent in your mouth. This trait can come from low acid wines and wines produced from fruit when the tannins were allowed to fully ripen. Describes a texture that is smooth, not coarse or tannic.
Rustic: Generally speaking, rustic wines are rough textured, old school wines that are often austere and stern. However, rustic can be more of a simple, country wine with character as well. The term can take on slightly different meanings, depending on the appellation. Describes wines made by old-fashioned methods or tasting like wines made in an earlier era. Can be a positive quality in distinctive wines that require aging. Can also be a negative quality when used to describe a young, earthy wine that should be fresh and fruity.
Saccharomyces: The genus of “sugar-eating” yeasts that produce beverage alcohol; the yeast category used for making wine, beer, and bread.
Saignee: French term for method of producing rosé wine by bleeding of the tanks after the wine has had limited contact with the grape skins.
Sancerre: An area in the Loire Valley known mostly for wines made from Sauvignon Blanc.
Sangiovese: A red grape native to Tuscany; the base grape for Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Morellino di Scansano, and others.
Satellite Appellations: Various small appellations located in the Right Bank that are close to, but not in St. Emilion. These regions are capable of producing some very nice wine, often offering some of the best value wines in Bordeaux.
Sauternes: A sweet Bordeaux white wine made from botrytized Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.
Sauvignon Blanc: A white grape planted throughout the world; increasingly the signature wine of New Zealand.
Score: Wine writers and critics often apply numerical scores to denote a wine’s level of quality vis a vis other wines in the same peer group. This is the same as a rating.
Seamless: When a taster experiences a wine that moves from the first taste, to the mid palate through to the finish without a break between the sensations and all the elements of the wine are in balance. This trait is hard to find.
Sec: French term for dry wine.
Second Growth: Term for chateau in the 1855 Classification of the Medoc that earned the second highest level of classification.
Secondary Fermentation: The term for the positive side that takes place to change still wine into Champagne or sparkling wine. On the negative side, this can also take place in the bottle due to remaining sugars and will ruin the wine.
Second Wine: A second wine is often produced from an estate’s young vines, or from juice or grapes that are not considered to be at the desired level of quality for the property’s top wine.
Secondary Aromas: This is what happens to the scent of wine once it matures. It develops tertiary, non fruit aromatics like truffles, tobacco, leather, tar, cedar and spice. This is a positive term.
Sediment: Natural occurrence as wines age that are formed with the tannins, pigments and other materials as they bond together. This is the mark of a wine that is maturing. Sediment will not harm you, but its bitter taste is not going to help your wine. You should remove the sediment by decanting or filtering.
Selection Massale: Used often in Bordeaux by growers that want to replace unhealthy, or under performing vines with vine cuttings produced from the estates oldest, best vines from their vineyard. This helps promote a more unique character to the vineyard.
Sémillon: A plump white grape popular in Bordeaux and Australia; the base for Sauternes.
Sexy: Sexy is good in life, and in wine. Sexy wines are sensuous, silky and opulent. They are usually rich wines as well.
Sharp: Descriptive term for wines that have a high “tart” level of acidity.
Sherry: A fortified wine from a denominated region in southwest Spain; styles include fino, Manzanilla, oloroso, and amontillado.
Shiraz: The Australian name for Syrah; also used in South Africa and sparingly in the United States.
Short: The opposite of long. A wine that is short has no length on the finish. This is a poor attribute.
Silex: Soil, or terroir consisting of a mixture of sand, flint and rocks.
Silky: Similar to velvety, but perhaps a little lighter. Silky wines feel polished in your mouth; a term used to describe a wine with an especially smooth mouthfeel.
Simple: Simple wines lack complexity beyond their initial fruit character.
Single Blind: In a single blind tasting, the tasters know the names of the wines, or the type of wine in the tasting but not their specific order.
Single Vineyard: Wines produced from grapes grown in one single vineyard, instead of multiple vineyard sites.
Slate: Type of rock, soil or terroir often found in the Northern Rhone and in Germany.
Slow oxidation: This technique involves removing the capsule and cork and allowing the wine to sit for hours before opening. This does nothing for the development of a wine.
Smoky/Smokiness: Some wines offer scents of smoke, fire, char or burnt aromas. This happens either because of the char in the barrels, the soil or the grapes. Usually an oak barrel byproduct, a smoky quality can add flavor and aromatic complexity to wines.
Smooth: Wines that are smooth, feel soft on your palate. They transition from the beginning to the middle through to the end, with a smooth texture. This is a positive attribute.
SO2: Chemical compound shorthand for sulfur dioxide, a gas which is used as a preservative agent to help avoid oxidation.
Soft: Soft wines are round, elegantly textured and can be low in acidity or tannins.
Solera: The Spanish system of blending wines of different ages to create a harmonious end product; a stack of barrels holding wines of various ages.
Sommelier: Technically a wine steward, but one potentially with a great degree of wine knowledge as well as a diploma of sorts in wine studies.
Sorting: Sorting is the last step before fermentation. During sorting, the wine maker removes all the unripe grapes and other unwanted material. Sorting can be done by hand or with new, optical sorting machines or other techniques.
Spice/Spicy/Spiciness: Wines often smell like different spices ranging from anise to pepper, to cinnamon, to 5 spice or cloves; a term used to describe certain aromas and flavors that may be sharp, woody, or sweet. These attributes are often present in complex wines.
Split: A quarter-bottle of wine; a single-serving bottle equal to 175 milliliters.
Spoofilated: Ridiculous term used by detractors of Robert Parker for wines they deem were produced using some of the more modern, widely accepted wine making techniques.
Steely: A term used to describe an extremely crisp, acidic wine that was not aged in barrels.
Stemmy: A term used to describe harsh, green characteristics in a wine.
Stone: Similar to Minerality, This aroma or flavor comes from grapes grown in intense mineral laden soils, normally filled with limestone. The sensation is of crushed rocks, stone or cement. This is a unique and desirable quality.
Structure: Structure is created by all the components that go into a wine, fruit, acid, tannin, sugar and alcohol. The interaction of elements such as acid, tannin, glycerin, alcohol and body as it relates to a wine’s texture and mouthfeel. Usually preceded by a modifier, as in “firm structure” or “lacking in structure.”
Subtle: Descriptive term for wines with lower-than-average intensity of olfactory scents and/or flavors.
Sulfites: Naturally occurring component produced by the yeast during fermentation. Sulfites are found in nearly all wines.
Super Second: The term for Second Growth Bordeaux wines that are considered to be so good, they are better than most Second Growths, but not quite at the level of First Growth Bordeaux.
Super Tuscan: A red wine from Tuscany that is not made in accordance with established DOC rules; often a blended wine of superior quality containing Sangiovese mixed with Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot.
Sur Lie: French term for a wine that is aged on its fine lees, meaning seeds, skins and other grape solids along with yeast cells.
Supple: Young wines that are lush are considered supple. Describes texture, mostly with reds, as it relates to tannin, body and oak. A positive characteristic. Supple wines are rich, plush and soft in the mouth; a term used to describe smooth, balanced wines.
Sweetness: A descriptive term used to characterize the content or quantity of residual sugars in a wine. Residual sugar is the unfermented grape sugar that remains in the wine after fermentation is complete. A very dry wine (called “bone” dry) is not sweet at all, while a dessert wine is very sweet.
Sweet Wine: Sweet wines are red or white wines which have varying degrees of residual sugar remaining.
Syrah: A red grape planted extensively in the Rhone Valley of France, Australia, and elsewhere; a spicy, full and tannic wine that usually requires aging before it can be enjoyed. The only red grape used in the Northern Rhone and an important blending grape for Chateauneuf du Pape.
Table Wine: Table wines do not denote quality, or a lack thereof. It is a degree of measurement for all wines that range from 10% to 14% alcohol; in Europe, table wines are those that are made outside of regulated regions or by unapproved methods.
Tank: A vessel for fermentaion that is most often made of stainless steel, cement or oak. This is the same as a vat.
Tannin/Tannic Structure: Tannins which are extracted from the grape skins and stems, coupled with acidity and alcohol, are the backbone of a wine and one of the key components to a long life. Tannins need to be ripe for a wine to feel good in your mouth. Unripe tannins can make your mouth feel dry or make the wine seem hard. Phenolic compounds that exist in most plants; in grapes, tannins are found primarily in the skins and pits; tannins are astringent and provide structure to a wine; over time tannins die off, making wines less harsh. The mouth-puckering substance found mostly in red wines that is derived primarily from grape skins, seeds and stems, but also from oak barrels. Tannins act as a natural preservative that helps wine age and develop.
Tart: Tart wines are produced from unripe fruit and/or fruit that is overly acidic. Sharp-tasting because of acidity. Occasionally used as a synonym for acidic.
Tartaric Acid/Tartrates: The small, harmless crystals of potassium bitartrate found at the bottom of a wine bottle. The crystals are harmless, odorless and lack flavor. They occur naturally when some wines age.
TCA (2,4,6-Trichloroanisole): TCA is the chemical compound that is the main cause of cork taint in wine.
Tears/Tearing: Better known as “legs”, these are the drip remnants of the wine that ooze down the inside of the wine glass when its swirled.
Tempranillo: The most popular red grape in Spain; common in Rioja and Ribera del Duero.
Terroir: A sense of place created from numerous environmental factors ranging from soil types, exposure, climate, topography and various other elements specific to the unique location. Those factors have a real effect on the vine and its expression of character on the vines and in the grapes. Terroir can be affected severely by the choices the winemaker makes in the cellars and in the vineyards; A French term for the combination of soil, climate, and all other factors that influence the ultimate character of a wine.
Tertiary Aromas: The same as secondary aromas. This is what happens to the scent of wine once it matures. It develops secondary, non fruit aromatics like truffles, tobacco, leather, tar, cedar and spice. This is a positive term.
Texture: A descriptive term for a wine’s body or viscosity, typically driven by alcohol content. See “Weight”.
Thief: This is a tube made of glass or plastic that you can use to extract a sample of wine from the barrel.
Third Growth: Term for chateau in the 1855 Classification of the Medoc that earned the Third highest level of classification.
Three Tier System: Bizarre, anachronistic American system of wine distribution which in some states can require wineries to sell to an importer or in the case of it being an American winery, the distributor or wholesaler, who then sells it to the merchant, who sells it to you. Ostensibly designed to protect the consumer, its sole purpose is to make money for the large monopolistic wholesalers while costing the consumer more money.
Tight: Tight is similar to closed in that the wine is holding its personality and positive traits in reserve. Describes a wine’s structure, concentration and body, as in a “tightly wound” wine. Closed or compact are similar terms. Aeration often helps alleviate tightness to some degree.
Tinny: Metallic tasting.
Tired: Limp, feeble, lackluster.
Toasted/Toasty: Describes a flavor derived from the oak barrels in which wines are aged, often characterized by oak smells: nutty, caramelized scents and flavors derived from the flame “toasting” of wood during barrel making. Also, a character that sometimes develops in sparkling wines.
Tobacco: Tobacco is a common smell found in mature wines, especially from Bordeaux. The aromas can range from cigar tobacco to ash or even pipe aromatics. This is a positive trait.
Tokay: A dessert wine made in Hungary from dried Furmint grapes.
Torrefaction: Coffee with vanilla aromatics, with scents arising from the oak barrels during the aging process.
Traditional: Similar to classic. Traditional is most often used for Bordeaux and California wine when the wine is less alcoholic, less ripe and more austere than modern tasters prefer. It can be a pejorative term. Traditional is also used to describe many wines in the Rhone Valley. In the Rhone Valley, generally speaking, traditional wines do not see much new oak, the grapes can be vinified with stems and alcohol levels that could be lower.
Tranche: French term for the amount of wine released for sale by the chateau during the En Primeur campaign. Loosely translated, a tranche is a slice of the wine produced that year.
Triple Digits: Slang term for wines reaching 100 Pt score.
Trocken: German for ‘dry.’
Typicity: Wines with typicity are said to either express the grape varietal, the terroir of an appellation or the typical wine making techniques of that region.
Ullage: Term for the air space between the wine and the cork. The level of ullage can determine the potential level of quality in an older wine.
Umami: One of the six sensations detected by the tongue’s taste buds – an overall “yummy” taste caused by glutamates and amino acids.
Unctuous: Unctuous wines have viscosity, or a rich mouth feel.
Unoaked/Unwooded/Naked: Descriptive terms for wines that do not come into contact with oak or barrels during winemaking, or whose flavor and scent feature no detectable presence of new oak.
VA: VA is short for volatile acidity.
Varietal: A wine made from just one grape type and named after that grape; the opposite of a blend; also a single grape family.
Vat: A vessel for fermentation that is most often made of stainless steel, cement or oak. This is the same as a tank.
Vegetal: This term can sometimes be an undesirable quality that is noted in wines produced from unripe grapes. Some wines contain elements in their smell and/or taste which are reminiscent of plants and vegetables. This may be a positive attribute. In Cabernet Sauvignon a small amount of this vegetal quality is said to be part of its varietal character. But when the vegetal element takes over, or when it shows up in wines in which it does not belong, those wines are considered flawed. Wine scientists have been able to identify the chemical constituent that makes wines smell like asparagus and bell peppers.
Velvety: This term can be exchanged with silk, lush or plush to describe wines with opulent texture. Having rich flavor and a silky, sumptuous texture.
Veneto: A large wine-producing region in northern Italy.
Veraison: Term for when the grapes change color from green to deep purple for red wines and when the grapes change from green to more of a yellow tone for white wine grapes during the growing season.
Vertical Tasting: A vertical tasting consists of the same wines from a single producer, winery or vineyard across multiple vintages.
Vibrant: Wines that are fresh, lively, energetic, with good acidity, but also rich with depth. This is a positive trait.
Vin de Paille: A sweet wine made from grapes dried on straw mats.
Vieilles Vignes: French term for old vines. Grapes from old vines have a minimum of 35 years of age. Old vines can produce better, more concentrated fruit, with naturally lower yields. Vines in some areas like Chateauneuf du Pape can be more than 100 years of age.
Vigneron: French term for a wine maker or wine grower.
Vignoble: French term for a wine growing area.
Vin: French term for wine.
Vin de Paille: Sweet wines that are produced by allowing the extremely ripe grapes to dry out on straw mats to decrease their juice while increasing their sugar levels.
Vinous: Literally means “winelike” and is usually applied to dull wines lacking in distinct varietal character.
Vin Santo: Sweet wine from Tuscany made from late-harvest Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes.
Vintage/Vintage Date: The specific year the grapes were harvested in. In order to carry a vintage date in the United States for instance, a wine must come from grapes that are at least 95 percent from the stated calendar year.
Vintner: Translates as wine merchant, but generally indicates a wine producer/or winery proprietor.
Vintner-Grown: Means wine from a winery-owned vineyard situated outside the winery’s delimited viticultural area.
Viognier: A fragrant, powerful white grape grown in the Rhone Valley of France and elsewhere.
Viscosity: Texture or thickness of a wine; see “Weight”. As an example, honey has a higher viscosity than water.
Viscous: Viscous wines are thick, rich and concentrated and display an unctuous quality.
Viticulture/Viniculture: The study and/or act of grape growing; the science and business of growing wine grapes. The cultivation, science and study of grapes.
Viticultural Area: Defines a legal grape-growing area distinguished by geographical features, climate, soil, elevation, history and other definable boundaries. Rules vary widely from region to region, and change often. As an example in the United States, a wine must be 85 percent from grapes grown within the viticultural area to carry the appellation name. For varietal bottling, a minimum of 75 percent of that wine must be made from the designated grape variety.
Volatile/Volatile Acidity: A volatile wine smells of vinegar due to an abundance of acetic bacteria. In some wines, a tiny dose can be seen as a positive trait. In large amounts this easily ruins a wine. This term describes an excessive and undesirable amount of acidity, which gives a wine a slightly sour, vinegary edge. At very low levels (0.1 percent), it is largely undetectable; at higher levels it is considered a major defect.
Volcanic: Type of soil and terroir, often found in Napa Valley that comes from rocks, stones, lava, ash and pumice, that were created through volcanic eruptions.
Weight: A descriptive term for a wine’s texture, perceived as thickness or viscosity in the mouth. Wines with more alcohol or higher sugar content feel heavier in the mouth than those that are lower in alcohol or dryer.
Whole Bunch Vinification: Method of fermenting the grapes with the stems still attached.
Woody: Woody wines are oaky. They feature strong, often overwhelming scents of vanilla, coffee or smoke. They can also feel dry in the mouth. This is a flaw.
Yeast: Yeast is a necessary component for supporting the process of fermenting grape juice into wine. Micro-organisms that produce the enzymes that trigger the fermentation process (conversion of sugar to alcohol); yeasts can be natural or commercial.
Yield: The term of measurement for the quantity of grapes collected in a harvest. In Europe, it is measured in hectoliters per hectare. In America, it is measured in tons per acre. Low yields are often seen as having the potential to produce better wine due to increased concentration and selection.
Young: Descriptive term for wine that is not barrel-aged before release or bottle-aged thereafter; typically applied to wines that are less than two years old.
Zinfandel: A popular grape in California of disputed origin; scientists say it is related to grapes in Croatia and southern Italy.
WINE – A TASTING COURSE
“Every Class in a Glass”
©2014 Dorling Kindersley Limited
New York, NY.
WINE FOLLY – MAGNUM EDITION
“The Master Guide”
Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack
©2018 Avery/Penguin Random House
New York, NY.