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Glossary of Wine Terms

 

Acid/ Acidity

An adjective to describe flavors. Acidity gives wine its zest and balances sweetness. The presence of acid is necessary for wines to age and gives wines a lively, crisp quality. Desirable acid content on dry wines falls between 0.6% and 0.75% of the wines volume. For sweet wines it should not be less than 0.70% of the volume.

Aerate

Allowing a wine to come in contact with the air (know as breathing). Wines can often be softened with exposure to oxygen. Aerating a wine helps it to mellow and develop its full flavors, especially red wines. Decanting is a way to aerate wine.

Ageing

Wine is one of the few foods that can improve with age. Given good cellaring conditions (cool, stable temperature is key among these) fine red wines will improve for many years after release, as will Vintage Ports and certain sweet and dry white wines.

Alcohol

Commonly used term for ethyl alcohol or ethanol, C2H5OH. It is the product of the fermentation of sugars by yeast. The alcohol present in wine, ranges from about 6.5 to 14 per cent.

Alsace

Alsace, in northwest France, produces some delicious full flavoured white wines from grape varieties such as Gewürztraminer, Tokay Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Blanc and Sylvaner. This is the only region of France that routinely labels wines by grape variety.

American Viticultural Area (AVA)

Specific grape growing areas in the United States as defined by the The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

Appellation

One specific geographic area from which a wine is produced. It can refer to a region, such as Bordeaux or Burgundy in France, or to an even more tightly defined sub-region within, such as The Médoc in Bordeaux.

Appellation Contrôlée

The term applied in France for the law controlling wine and its production. Wine with Appellation Contrôlée (AOC) on the label will have had to have met a whole host of regulations regarding grape variety, maximum yield, minimum ageing and so on.

Aroma

The intensity and character of the aroma can be assessed with nearly any descriptive adjective. Usually refers to the particular smell of the grape variety. The word "bouquet" is usually restricted to describing the aroma of a cellar-aged bottled wine.

Assemblage

A French term for the process of making a wine by blending the component parts.

Astringent

Unflattering tasting term describing an unpleasant, dry, mouth-puckering sensation usually can be attributed to high tannin content.

Auslese

German term that means ‘selected harvest’.

Austere

Usually used in description of dry, relatively hard and acidic wines that seem to lack depth and roundness. Term often applied to wines made from noble grape varieties grown in cool climates or harvested too early in the season.

B.

BATF

Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms. The Federal agency that regulates the production and sale of alcoholic beverages in the U.S.A.

Backbone

Term used to describe the structural taste of the wine.

Backward

Describes a wine that retains youthful characteristics despite considerable aging. This usually indicates that it will take longer to reach maturity and requires even more aging in the bottle or barrel. Opposite of forward.

Balanced

Denotes harmonious balance of wine elements where no individual part is dominant. Acid balances the sweetness; fruit balances against oak and tannin content; alcohol is balanced against acidity and flavor.

Balthazar

A huge bottle that contains 12 litres of Champagne, which is the equivalent of 16 bottles.

Barrel fermentation

The process of fermenting grape juice in small oak barrels, this can add complexity and oak-derived flavours to the finished wine.

Barrique

A 225 litre small oak barrel of the type originally found in Bordeaux, but now used throughout the world.

Baumé

A technical term for measuring the approximate sugar concentration in grape juice through assaying total dissolved compounds. The degrees Baumé is an indication of the final alcoholic strength of the wine if it is fermented to dryness.

Beaujolais

A pretty region just south of Burgundy, Beaujolais makes fresh, fruity but sometimes rather simple red wines from the Gamay grape. At their best these are fun, joy-filled wines for early drinking.

Beerenauslese

German term literally ‘selected berries’. This rather fanatical practice results in luscious, complex and very expensive sweet white wines.

Bin

Originally a batch or collection of wine bottles, but more specifically a brand name that separates a particular wine from others produced by the same winery.

Blanc (French)

White.

Bleeding

Known also by the French term of ‘saignée’. Red wines gain their colour and *tannins from the contact between grape juice and skins during fermentation. So in order to increase the ratio of skins to juice, some producers ‘bleed’ off some of the juice before fermentation. The juice bled off in this fashion can be used to make rosé wine with, because it will be slightly pink.

Blending

A wine can be blend of different varieties, different vintages, different areas and even different barrel.

Blush

Term in the US for a pale-pink-colored wine.

Body

The effect on the taster''s palate usually experienced from a combination of alcohol, glycerin and sugar content. Often described as "full", "meaty" or "heavy".

Bordeaux

The world’s most famous wine region and home to some of the world’s most aristocratic wines. On the left bank are the Médoc and Graves regions, which produce some of the most celebrated wines in the world from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. On the right bank are found St Emilion and also the tiny appellation of Pomerol, which is home to wines such as Petrus, Lafleur and Le Pin. The Sauternes region, just south of the Médoc, produces stunning sweet white wines.

Botrytis

"Botrytis Cinerea", a mold or fungus that attacks grapes in humid climate conditions, causing the concentration of sugar and acid content by making grapes at a certain level of maturity shrivel. On the Riesling grape it allows a uniquely aromatic and flavorful wine to be made, resulting in the extraordinary "Beerenauslese" style of wine.

Bouquet

Near synonym for "aroma". The scent of a wine that develops as it ages and matures.

Brawny

Term used mainly to describe young red wines with high alcohol and tannin levels. Certain red wines from Amador County, California, can be examples. The mild epithet "tooth-stainers" is sometimes applied to this style of wine, denoting respect for strength.

Breathing

When wine is poured into a wineglass, the mixture of air seems to release pent-up aromas which then become more pronounced.

Brettanomyces

Yeast-like fungus (often abbreviated to just ‘brett’). It is often encountered in red wines from warm regions such as the South of France. In small doses can add complexity, but in higher concentrations is thought to be a fault.

Brix

A measure of sugar in grapes. It is partially this measure of sugar level that determines the harvest date of a vineyard.

Broad

A tasting term. Wine that has flavour and aroma elements that peak across the whole spectrum of tastes and smells is a ‘broad’ wine.

Brut

French word meaning ‘bone dry’ in Champagne. The authorities in the Champagne region of France use this term to denote added sugar.

Budburst

Refers to the time in Spring when the dormant vine starts to produce its first new shoots.

Burgundy

One of the world’s classic regions, the home of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The heart of Burgundy, known as the Côte d’Or, is a narrow band of gentle hillside, encompassing some 60 small appellations. The key to success in purchasing Burgundy is knowing who the better producers are. At its best, white Burgundy is the greatest and most long-lived expression of the Chardonnay grape, combining complex smoky, toasty, buttery, nutty and mineralic elements with firm acidity that holds everything together. And Pinot Noir reaches its zenith in red Burgundy, making exotic, perfumed red wines commonly with hints of undergrowth or mushrooms.

Buttery

Taste term for the rich, creamy characters often found in barrel-fermented Chardonnay that has undergone malolactic fermentation.

C.

Carbonic maceration

Process widely used in *Beaujolais where uncrushed grapes are allowed to begin fermentation in a protective atmosphere of CO2. What happens is that the largely intact grapes begin fermenting inside their own skins, which produces light, fruity reds for early drinking. Now commonly used throughout the world to make gluggable red wines with lots of fruit and not too much *tannin.

Cava

The term used in Spain for sparkling wines produced with the traditional method used in the Champagne region of France.

Cave (french)

The French word for underground cellar.

Cedar

A taste term. Mature Bordeaux often smells of cedar wood.

Cellaring

Wine should be kept away from high temperatures, direct light, large temperature swings and vibration, although there’s a lack of scientific evidence about how these different environmental conditions affect wine and precisely which the critical parameters are. Humidity is also thought to be important to stop the cork drying out.

Cépage

French term for grape variety.

Chablis

The Chablis area is just North West of Burgundy near the town of Auxerre.
White wine from the Chablis area of France, made from Chardonnay grapes.

Chambre

French term meaning room tempurature.

Champagne

An important region of France, most known for its production of the only sparkling wine that can truly be called Champagne. The méthode champenoise was invented there.

Chaptalization

Winemaking trick in which the alcoholic strength of a wine is increased by the addition of sugar to crushed grapes before fermentation takes place. Can be useful if your grapes aren’t ripe enough. Occurs commonly in Beaujolais, Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Château (French)

Term given to a wine-growing property.

Claret

Old-fashioned English term for red wines from the *Bordeaux region.

Clarification

Removable of insoluble material from wine, usually through fining agents or filtration.

Classed growth

A literal translation from the French term, cru classé, that describes a property or Château included in the famous 1855 classification of *Bordeaux, and the subsequent reclassifications that have occurred since. There are five different tiers to this classification: the first, second, third, fourth and fifth growths. These are the aristocratic wines of Bordeaux, and command high prices.

Clean

A wine which doesn’t have any off -flavours or taints is called ‘clean’.

Clos

A vineyard that is entirely enclosed by a wall.

Closed

A wine that doesn’t smell much. Many fine wines go through a ‘closed’ period as part of their development.

Cloudy

Opposite of clear. Noticeable cloudiness is undesirable except in cellar aged wines that have not been decanted properly. A characteristic of some unfiltered wines showing the result of winemaking mistakes and often possessing an unpleasant taste.

Cold stabilization

A technique that causes wine to drop tartaric acid crystals due to cooling to low temperatures (28 to 35 degrees) for a period of up to two weeks. This procedure is usually used only for white wines.

Complex

Almost a synonym for "breed". Possesses that elusive quality where many layers of flavor separate a great wine from a very good one. Balance combines all flavor and taste components in almost miraculous harmony.

Coupe

Cut, wine blended with another.

Cooperage

A term that refers to the wooden barrels, vats and containers used in winemaking. The term can also be used to refer to the shop where a cooper performs his work.

Corked

Wine has unpleasant "wet cardboard" taste/smell. Wine that has been contaminated by a chemical called trichloroanisole (TCA). It is a major problem, spoiling between 2% and 7% of all wines.

Côte

French term for ‘slope’.

Crisp

Wine has definite but pleasing tartness, acidity. The same as referring to a wine as ‘bright’ and the opposite of describing a wine as ‘soft’ or ‘flabby’.

Cru (french)

A growth or vineyard.

Cuvée

Essentially a French term, but increasingly seen on New World wine labels also. Denotes a wine of a specific blend or batch. In many cases this will also indicate a house specialty.

D.

Decanting

A method by which cellar-aged bottled wine is poured slowly and carefully into a second vessel, usually a glass decanter, in order to leave any sediment in the original bottle before serving. Almost always a treatment confined to red wines.

Demi-sec

French for medium dry.

Delicate

Any wine demonstrating somewhat mild, but attractive characteristics. Occasionally used to describe well-made wines from the so-called "lesser grape" varieties.

Denominación Especifica

A classification in Spain that guarantees the production process for a wine.

Domaine (French)

Property or estate.

Dosage

Champagne making process. First the wine is fermented, and then a secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. After this, the plug of dead yeast cells is removed, and the wine is topped up with wine and sugar syrup¾the dosage. The sweetness of the final *Champagne is determined by the dosage used.

Doux (French)

Sweet.

Dry

The opposite of sweet wine.

E.

Earthy

Covers situations where a "mother-earth" component is present. Earth is soil-dirt, but an earthy wine is not dirty as in "DIRTY" above. The term appears to be applicable to wine thought, by some, to be made from certain young varietal grapes obtained from vines planted on land previously used for growing vegetables containing components which "marked" the soil in some way. European tasters use the term in a broader sense to describe "terroir" characteristics.

Eiswein

A German oddity made by crushing frozen grapes that have been deliberately left on the vine until winter, when they are picked on the first really freezing night. The juice that is released is super-concentrated and the resulting wines are extremely sweet.

Élevage

Literally, the ‘bringing up’ or ‘raising’ of a wine, a French term that can encompass making, maturing and bottling a wine.

En primeur

Wines that are sold from a winery after fermentation but before aging are called ‘futures’ or ‘en Primeur’.

Extract

Technically, this refers to the amount of dissolved solid material in a wine, and it’s usually a term reserved for red wines.

F.

Fat

Fills the mouth in a positive manner. The wine "feels" and tastes a little obvious and often lacks elegance but is prized by connoisseurs of sweet dessert wines. Fatness/oiliness is determined by the naturally occurring glycerol content in the wine.

Fermentation

Yeasts do a really useful job: they eat up sugar in grape juice and excrete alcohol. This is called fermentation.

Filtration

The removal of suspended solid particles in a wine by passing it through a filter. It can be a useful alternative to allowing the solid particles to settle naturally, thereby speeding up the winemaking process, or it can be used in cases where the wine won’t clear naturally. But it is a controversial practice. Opponents to filtration claim that it strips out some of the flavour, and marketing people consequently use the term ‘unfiltered’ to help sell wines that haven’t been treated in this way.

Fining

A process used to remove suspended solids from a wine in order to make it ‘clear’. Fining agents include dried blood, casein, clay and egg whites.

Finish

The flavours left in the mouth after you have swallowed or spat out a mouthful of wine. A very long finish is an indication of a good wine.

Fino

A Sherry type that is dry with delicate aromas and flavors. It is usually served as a chilled aperitif. It should be consumed as young as possible because it will begin to oxidize within a year of bottling.

Flabby

A word used to describe a wine that doesn’t have enough acidity to balance the other elements. Buttery Chardonnays with rich tropical fruit flavours from warm-climate regions are most likely to show this sort of character.

Fortified

Wine that has a grape spirit added during fermentation. Usually includes, madeira, marsala, sherry, and port.

Fortification

Introducing brandy into the fermenting must to stop the fermentation process.

Forward

Opposite of "closed-in" or, as used by some, backward. Means presence of "fruitiness" is immediately apparent. Usually employed as a term denoting that the wine is in peak condition and on its plateau of maturity.

Foxy

Common descriptive word used to note the presence of the unique musky and grapey character attached to native american Vitis

Free-run juice

When grapes are harvested and crushed, the juice that drains from the unpressed grapes is called free-run juice, and typically constitutes about two-thirds of the total juice the grapes will yield.

French Hybrids

Refers to the grape varieties produced in France that are the result of crossing the classic European varieties with American species of vines.

French paradox

The French eat lots of fatty foods, yet they have less heart disease than you’d expect from all this seemingly unhealthy diet. This phenomenon is known as the French paradox, and one proposed explanation has been that wine consumption, which is high in France, is protective against heart disease.

Fresh

Tasting term for a wine (usually white) that is clean, possibly aromatic, light bodied and with good acidity.

Funky

Defies precise definition. Appears to be a 1970s cannabis culture derived word sometimes used by N. American west coast winetasting reviewers when describing vegetal/ yeasty/yeastlike aromas so complex that individual identification is difficult. Can have positive or negative connotations depending on context.

G.

Gamey

Imprecise taste term usually reserved for older wines that exhibit smells and flavours associated with damp undergrowth, mushrooms, and fowl.

Grafting

Vines grafted onto rootstock from other vine varieties. Almost all commercial vineyards are now planted with grafted wines.

Green

Wine that tastes youthful, unripe, raw and acidic.

H.

Hard

Term for a wine has a tough tannic structure, perhaps also with high acidity or bitterness, and very little *fruit to provide balance.

Herbaceous

Grass cuttings and hedge smell is usually described as herbaceous, is commonly found in red wines, especially those made from slightly unripe Cabernet Franc or Merlot grapes.

Hearty

Most often applied in description of full, red wines with high alcohol component. Examples are found in some California Zinfandels, lesser French Rhone or Algerian red wines and in the occasional Australian Shiraz.

Hermitage

This small hillside appellation in the Northern Rhône region of France is famous for being the home of the Syrah grape.

Hive

A ridged shelf for storing wine.

Hogshead

Another name for a small oak barrel, used to ferment or mature wines in.

Hot

Defines a wine high in alcohol and giving a burning sensation on the palate. Acceptable in fortified wines positively undesirable in light, fruity wines,

I.

Irrigation

Grape vines need water, and if there isn’t enough of it in the environment, it is necessary to supply this artificially, by irrigation. Although it is frowned upon in European wine regions, used carefully it can be used in the production of high quality wines.

L.

Lactic acid

An acidic component of wines that is also found in diary products.

Lagar

Plural ‘lagares’. A shallow stone trough traditionally used for the foot-treading of grapes.

Lambrusco

A red Italian grape variety, creates dry, slightly fizzy, rustic red wines with high acidity, best with food.

Languedoc

Traditionally the region that made the largest contribution of European wine. The best wines are made from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre grapes. The best producers make robust, full-flavoured earthy red wines that offer good value for money.

Late harvest

Means that the grapes were harvested later than normal, and thus with a higher sugar level. The wine will probably be quite sweet, although in some cases may have been fermented to dryness, in which case the potential alcohol will be higher. The French term for this is ‘vendange tardive’, in German it is ‘spätlese’.

Leafy

Somewhat like "vegetal". Desirable in very small detectable amounts.

Lean

Tasting term referring to a wine that has high acidity and not much fruit.

Leathery

Dreadfully subjective red wine descriptor that’s really hard to pin a definition on. In some cases this will refer to the texture of the wine, indicating that a wine is tough and chewy, but in others it may be used to describe a wine that smells of old leather.

Lees

The solids which settle to the bottom of a barrel or vat as a wine ferments and ages. In some wines the lees are stirred on a regular basis to create a richer fuller mouth feel in the wines.

Lees stirring

The gunk at the bottom of a barrel is circulated around with a stick (hence the French term for this, bâttonage). It is usually reserved for white wines that have been *barrel-fermented. It adds a creamy richness and complexity to the wine.

Left Bank

The side of a river that is to your left if you position yourself in the middle of the river and look downstream.

Length

How long the total flavor lasts in the back of the throat after swallowing. Counted in time-seconds, known as "caudilie". Ten seconds (caudilie) is good, fifteen is great, twenty is excellent and fifty is superb. Almost a synonym for "finish", as in "this is a wine with an long, extraordinary finish".

Light

Describes a wine that is thin and has little body.

Lightstruck

A condition that can occur in wines (especially delicate wines like Champagne) when they are exposed to ultra-violet light rays for too long a time. It is a flaw that has been described as having the smell and taste of wet cardboard.

Loire

Region in Northern France; source of diverse and fascinating wines. Arranged along the course of the Loire river, starting from the Atlantic and continuing to Sancerre.

Long or length

A wine with good ‘length’ is one whose flavour persists in the mouth.

M.

Maceration

Red winemaking process in which tannins, pigments and flavour compounds are released from the grape skins in the fermentation vessel. Fermentation is usually over pretty quickly with red wines, so many winemakers like to leave the wine in contact with the skins for longer; this is known as extended maceration and results in deeper coloured wines.

Machine harvesting

Machine harvesters pass through the rows of vines literally beating the individual grapes off the vines with rubber paddles, which are then collected and separated from the non-grape material for transport back to the winery.

Mâcon

The Mâcon Appellation is situated in Southern Burgundy, on the right bank of the Saône River, North of the city of Mâcon. The soils there are granite with chalky underlying rocks. The white wines are made from the Chardonnay grape as are all the great white burgundies.

Magnum

Bottle size. A big bottle that holds 1.5 litres of wine, equivalent to two full bottles.

Malic acid

An acid found in high concentrations in unripe grapes, it has a tart, sharp flavour. It is lost as the grapes ripen, which is one reason why wines from very warm climates often have a low natural acidity and can taste *flabby. It is also lost through *malolactic fermentation during the winemaking process.

Malolactic fermentation

A second fermentation that can be induced by a winemaker that changes the malic acid in a wine into lactic acid. The process softens the sharpness of a wine and can impart a ‘buttery’ aroma to some wines (especially Chardonnay).

Marc

The material that remains in the wine press after the pressing has taken place. This material is composed of skins, pulp, and pips.

Meritage

A term mostly used in the US for a style of blended red wine made from the noble grape varieties of Bordeaux, namely Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.

Methuselah

Large-format bottle that holds an enormous six litres of Champagne (eight bottles’ worth). Go on, impress your friends. Let’s hope it isn’t *corked, though.

Moelleux

French term which translates as ‘mellow’, but in the context of wine means sweet or medium sweet. You’ll often find this term on bottles from the Loire.

Must

The mixture of unfermented grape juice and grape solids that is created at the initial crushing of harvested grapes.

Musty

A wine that displays unpleasant "mildew" or "moldy" aromas. Results from improperly cleaned storage vessels, moldy grapes or cork.

MW

This stands for Master of Wine, and indicates that these dedicated individuals have passed the gruelling professional exams set by the Institute of Masters of Wine.

N.

Négociant

French term for wine merchant. A Negociant makes, bottles and markets the wine, but does not grow the grapes.

New World

A term used to describe wines from non-European regions such as Australia, California, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand.

Noble Rot

Grapes are infected by a fungus called Botrytis, with the result that they shrivel up and go all furry. This is what is known as noble rot, and although the grapes look disgustingly inedible, infected bunches yield small quantities of concentrated juice that produces some of the world’s most complex, sublime and long-lived sweet white wines.

Nouveau

Literally ‘new’ in French, this term is used to describe the first wine of each vintage, Beaujolais Nouveau. This wine from the Beaujolais region of Burgundy is made from the Gamay grape and is traditionally the first wine of each vintage. By law, it is released worldwide to consumers on the third Thursday of November.

Nose

Term for the smell, aroma or bouquet of a wine. Strictly applied it refers to the totality of the detectable odor, (grape variety, vinous character, fermentation smells), whether desirable or defective. One would speak of a mature wine as having, for example, "varietal aromas, flowery bouquet and hint of vanilla oak combining to give a balanced nose".

O.

Oak

Oak barrels are an important and complicated variable in the production of the majority of serious red wines and an increasing number of whites. Many white wines, and in particular Chardonnays, are fermented in small oak barrels. This adds some complexity to the wine, and also imparts toasty, nutty and vanilla-like flavours to the wine, especially when the barrels are new. Red wines are rarely fermented in barrels, but will often spend a lengthy period of ageing in them. Barrels allow a small amount of oxygen to come into contact with the wine, thus accelerating the development of more complex flavours, and when new oak is used, the wine picks up flavours of vanilla and spice and tannins from the wood.

Oaky

The taste or aroma of freshly sawn oak. A wine, especially a red, is considered as correctly "oaked" when the "nose" carries a bare whiff of vanilla aroma. Sometimes oak flavors overpower other component wine flavors in which case it is considered overoaked. Oak flavor is introduced from contact with storage barrels made from that wood. New oak barrels contribute stronger flavor to a wine than older storage barrels. The "oaky" components encountered include "vanillin", and so-called "toasty", "charred" or "roasted" elements. "Vanillin" comes from the character of the hardwood. The three others derive from the "charring" of the barrel that occurs from heating the broad iron rings which hold the barrel staves in place after contraction and the flaming of the interior.

Old Vine

Term used to refer to wine made from grape vines that are over 30 years old. Older vines, so the story goes, produce fewer grapes but those they do produce are of a better quality than fruit from younger vines.

Old World

Catch-all term referring to wines from the classical European wine regions.

Oloroso

A dark, nutty, rich form of sherry that takes most of its flavour from long ageing in an oak cask.

Oporto

The second largest city in Portugal behind Lisbon. Oporto is the traditional home of the Port trade.

Oxidized

A commonly encountered wine fault, caused by the excessive exposure of a wine to oxygen.

Organic

In very general terms, a wine made without using any chemicals, but the use of the word 'Organic' on wine labels is strictly regulated by the wine laws of a particular country. For more details, take a look at our organic and biodynamic wine page.

P.

Phylloxera

A nasty aphid that attacks the roots of Vitus Vinifera grapes and destroys grapevines.

Pierce’s disease

A really nasty vine disease caused by a bacterium carried by an insect called the sharpshooter. It is currently causing havoc in Californian vineyards, but fortunately hasn’t yet spread to Europe.

Pips

Grape seeds.

Pouilly Fuissé

Situated at the southern end of Burgundy, the Pouilly-Fuissé vineyard is the most renowned of those in the Mâcon region. The soil is composed of chalk and marl, and the wines are made from the Chardonnay grape as are all the great white burgundies.

Premier cru

French term for “first growth”.

Press

A method or devisse used to squeeze juice out of grapes.

Pressings

The solids left over after squeezing all the juice out of crushed grapes.

Punt

A deep indentation found in the bottom of many wine bottles.

R.

Racking

The act of moving wine from one barrel to another in order to separate it from settled solids (lees) at the bottom.

Rancio

An obscure tasting term that describes the pungent smell of a (usually fortified) wine that has been intentionally oxidized or exposed to heat.

Rehoboam

A big Champagne bottle sizes, holds 4.5 litres (six bottles’ worth).

Reserve

A term used throughout the wine world. There is no formal definition of what makes a ‘reserve’ wine: producers usually use this to indicate a wine that is made from selected grapes or has been given lavish oak treatment.

Residual Sugar

Sugar remaining in a wine after fermentation has concluded.

Rhône

This important French wine region can neatly be divided into two. The Northern Rhône is the home of the Syrah grape (aka Shiraz), which makes full flavoured, meaty, structured red wines in the Appellations of Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, Cornas, Côte-Rôtie and St Joseph. White wines are also produced, the most well know of which is Condrieu, made from the exotically flavored Viognier grape. Because quantities of wine produced in the Northern Rhône are small and quality is good, prices are invariably high. In contrast, the warmer Southern Rhône produces a huge amount of wine, much of it inexpensive Côtes du Rhône from the Grenache grape.

Right Bank

The bank of a river that is to your right if you position yourself in the middle of the river and look downstream.

Ripe

Favorable adjective bestowed when the varietal characteristics of the grape are optimally present in a well balanced wine. Ripe-tasting wines tend toward being slightly more fruity and sweet.

S.

Sappy

A taste term. A less extreme variant of green.

Sec

French term for ‘dry’, as in the opposite of sweet.

Sherry

A fortified wine from Jerez, in southern Spain. It comes in many different styles, most of which are dry.

Short

A descriptive term that describes a wine which has no lingering aftertaste or finish.

Smoky

Refers to aroma contributed by the charred oakwood in barrels. Needs a variant, such as "wood-smoke" or "barbecue smoke" or "sooty" to fully convey the meaning.

Soft

Generally wine that has low acid/tannin content, wines with low alcohol content. Consequently these wines have little impact on the palate.

Solera

A system for ageing sherry, consisting of a series of barrels (known as butts), arranged next to and top of each other. It’s all rather complex, but in simplest terms when wine is drawn off for bottling from an old barrel, this barrel is then topped-up with younger wine from another barrel. Thus, if a solera was set up 100 years ago, the wine that is bottled today would technically contain some wine that was 100 years old.

Sommelier

French for “Wine Waiter”.

Sparkling red/sparkling Shiraz

A wonderfully Australian invention. Take red grapes, most commonly of the Shiraz variety, and instead of making a full bodied red wine, vinify them like you would Champagne, producing a fizzy, frothy red wine, usually with a touch of residual sugar to offset the tannins. Well worth seeking out, you’ll either love them or hate them.

Spätlese

A German term for late harvest. These wines will probably have a touch of sweetness, usually with good balancing acidity, unless they are labelled ‘trocken’, in which case they will be dry and fresh.

Stalky

A tasting term that is a close relative of sappy and green, usually used to describe young, raw red wines.

Structure

A popular tasting term for the elements of a wine that confer longevity, mainly *tannins and *acidity.

Sulfites

Amino acids that result from the breakdown of proteins during fermentation. They may be added to through the addition of sulphur during the winemaking process.

Sweet

Refers to one of the four basic tastes detected by the sensory nerves of the human tongue. In the description of wine taste-flavor the term "sweet" is almost always used as an identifier denoting the presence of residual sugar and/or glycerin.

T.

Tank

A large closed container used for the storing, fermenting or blending wine. Tanks are often stainless steel, wood or fiberglass lined concrete.

Tannin

The astringent or bitter qualities in a wine come from tannins, which are found in grape skins, stems and seeds. Tannins are extracted from grapes by skin contact and heavy pressing. Another source of a different type of tannin called flavonoids, is aging in oak barrels. Subtle amounts of oak tannins can give wine an aromatic complexity that can be desireable.

Tarrango

An obscure cross between a Portuguese grape variety with the Sultana grape, that is sometimes used in Australia to make simple, fruity red wines with piercing acidity.

Tartaric Acid

The most important grape-derived acid in wine. Sometimes you’ll find little crystals at the bottom of a bottle of wine: these are crystals of tartarate salts, and they are harmless and flavourless.

TCA

An abbreviation for the chemical trichloranisole, which ruins an enormous amount of wine every year.

Terroir

Terroir is a French term which refers to exactly these site-specific differences in wines that are caused by factors such as soil types, drainage, local microclimate and sun exposure. Includes geographic, geological, and other attributes that can affect an area of growth as small as a few square metres.

Tobacco

Descriptive term, used by some, to describe a flavor component resembling the taste of tobacco leaf in the finish of certain red wines. Seems to mainly apply to Cabernet Sauvignons from Bordeaux, France or the Napa region of California.


"Cigarbox" is a common term often used as a near synonym especially if a cedar-wood note in the aroma is detected.

Trocken

German term for ‘dry’.

U.

Ullage

If you ever buy old fine wines, you’ll be interested in the ullage level: it refers to the loss of wine from the bottle with time.

Umami

If you paid attention in biology lessons at school you’ll recall being taught that there are four basic tastes: sweet, salty, bitter and sour. It turns out that there are in fact at least five, and the Japanese have known this for ages. Sake blenders in Japan long ago identified a fifth taste, which they called ‘umami’ (translated this means ‘deliciousness’), and scientists have shown that this is the taste of monsodium glutamate, picked up by glutamate receptors on the tongue.

V.

Vanilla

If you detect the scent of vanilla in a wine, it’s a tell-tale sign that new oak (and in particular American oak) has been used at some stage in the wine making process.

Varietal

A wine named after the single grape variety it was made from. This consumer-friendly practice began in earnest in the USA in the 1950s and is now so popular that the majority of wines from the n ew world now have the grape variety on the label.

Varietal Character

The particular flavor characteristics associated with a grape picked at optimum maturity - (eg: distinctive "berrylike" taste of California Zinfandels, "blackcurrants" of Cabernet Sauvignon etc).

Vat

A big container for fermenting, ageing or storing wine in.

Verdelho

Portuguese grape variety, originally from Madeira but now becoming popular in the Hunter Valley of Australia, where it produces fresh lemon and melon flavoured dry white wines.

Vieilles vignes

French term for *old vines.

Vinification

Posh term for winemaking.

Vintage

Grape harvest. If the year of a vintage is listed on a label, it indicates that the wine was made only from grapes harvested in that year.

Viscous

Tasting term used for wines that are thick, heavy-textured and concentrated.

Vitis Labrusca

The grape species believed to be an impure, cross-pollinated version of the wild grape native to North America.

Vitis VINIFERA

The premier grape species used for the world''s most admired wines. Also referred to as the "European vine".

Volatile Acidity

A wine fault describing a wine with an unpleasant, vinegar-like nose, caused by *acetic acid a volatile acid that is a result of the oxidation of alcohol.

W.

Wine Press

A device for extracting juice from crushed grapes.

Woody

Almost a synonym for OAKY, implies an overstay in a wooden container which resulted in the absorption of other wood flavors besides "oak".

Y.

Yeast

Yeasts eat the sugar in grape juice and excrete alcohol and carbon dioxide as waste products. They keep going until all the sugar is gone, or until the alcohol level reaches about 16%, at which point they die. The selection of the appropriate yeast strain -- or indeed the decision simply to allow fermentation to occur with the wild strains of yeast that live on the grape skins -- is an important choice in winemaking. Examples would be the presence of "brett", (brettanomeyces), a strain of yeast that produces "gamey/smokey" odors that are considered to add to the character of the wine when barely detectable

 

 

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