Definitions & Terms.

Acidity

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.

 

Alcohol

The end product of fermentation; technically ethyl alcohol resulting from the interaction of natural grape sugars and yeast; generally above 12.5 percent in dry table wines.

 

AOC

Appellation diOrigine Controlee, a French term for a denominated, governed wine region such as Margaux or Nuits-St.-Georges

 

Aroma

A scent thatis a component of the bouquet or nose; i.e. cherry is an aromatic component of a fruity bouquet.

 

AVA

American Viticultural Area; a denominated American wine region approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

 

Balance

The level of harmony between acidity, tannins, fruit, oak, and other elements in a wine; a perceived quality that is more individual than scientific.

 

Barrel Fermented

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.

 

Barrique

French for 'barrel,' generally a barrel of 225 liters.

 

Blanc de Blancs

The name for Champagne made entirely from Chardonnay grapes.

Blanc de Noirs

The name for Champagne made entirely from red grapes, either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, or both.

 

Blend

The process whereby two or more grape varieties are combined after separate fermentation; common blends include Cotes de Rhone and red and white Bordeaux.

 

Bodega

Spanish for winery; literally the 'room where barrels are stored.'

 

Body

The impression of weight on one's palate; light, medium, and full are common body qualifiers.

 

Bordeaux

A city on the Garonne River in southwest France; a large wine-producing region with more than a dozen subregions; a red wine made mostly from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc; a white wine made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

 

Botrytis (Cinerea)

A beneficial mold that causes grapes to shrivel and sugars to concentrate, resulting in sweet, unctuous wines; common botryt's wines include Sauternes, Tokay, and German beerenauslese.

 

Bouquet

The sum of a wine's aromas; how a wine smells as a whole; a key determinant of quality.

 

Brix

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.

 

Brut

A French term used to describe the driest Champagnes.

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.

 

Champagne

A denominated region northeast of Paris in which Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes are made into sparkling wine.

 

Chaptalization

The process of adding sugar to fermenting grapes in order to increase alcohol.

 

Chateau

French for 'castle;' an estate with its own vineyards.

 

Clos

Pronounced 'Cloh,' this French word once applied only to vineyards surrounded by walls.

 

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.

 

Cooperative

A winery owned jointly by multiple grape growers.

 

Corked

A wine with musty, mushroomy aromas and flavors resulting from a cork tainted by TCA (trichloroanisol).

 

Crianza

A Spanish term for a red wine that has been aged in oak barrels for at least one year.

 

Cru

A French term for ranking a wineis inherent quality, i.e. cru bourgeois, cru classe, premier cru, and grand cru.

Decant

The process of transferring wine from a bottle to another holding vessel. The purpose is generally to aerate a young wine or to separate an older wine from any sediment.

 

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.

 

Disgorge

The process by which final sediments are removed from traditionally made sparkling wines prior to the adding of the dosage.

 

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.

 

Dry

A wine containing no more than 0.2 percent unfermented sugar.

 

Earthy

A term used to describe aromas and flavors that have a certain soil-like quality.

 

Fermentation

The process by which sugar is transformed into alcohol; how grape juice interacts with yeast to become wine.

 

Filtration

The process by which wine is clarified before bottling.

 

Fining

Part of the clarification process whereby elements are added to the wine, i.e. egg whites, in order to capture solids prior to filtration.

Fortified Wine

A wine in which brandy is introduced during fermentation; sugars and sweetness are high due to the suspended fermentation.

 

Gran Reserva

A Spanish term used for wines that are aged in wood and bottles for at least five years prior to release.

 

Grand Cru

French for 'great growth;' the very best vineyards.

 

Green

A term used to describe underripe, vegetal flavors in a wine.

 

Hectare

A metric measure equal to 10,000 square meters or 2.47 acres.

 

Herbaceous

An aroma or flavor similar to green; often an indication of underripe grapes or fruit grown in a cool climate.

 

Ice Wine

From the German eiswein, this is a wine made from frozen grapes; Germany, Austria and Canada are leading ice wine producers.

 

Kabinett

A German term for a wine of quality; usually the driest of Germanyis best Rieslings.

 

Late Harvest

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.

Lees

Heavy sediment left in the barrel by fermenting wines; a combination of spent yeast cells and grape solids.

 

Legs

A term used to describe how wine sticks to the inside of a wineglass after drinking or swirling.

 

Loire

A river in central France as well as a wine region famous for Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Franc.

 

Maceration

The process of allowing grape juice and skins to ferment together, thereby imparting color, tannins, and aromas.

 

Madeira

A fortified wine that has been made on a Portuguese island off the coast of Morocco since the fifteenth century.

 

Maderized

Stemming from the word Madeira, this term means oxidization in a hot environment.

 

Malolactic Fermentation

A secondary fermentation, often occurring in barrels, whereby harsher malic acid is converted into creamier lactic acid.

 

Must

Crushed grapes about to go or going through fermentation.

 

Negociant

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.'

 

Nose

Synonymous with bouquet; the sum of a wine's aromas.

 

Oaky

A term used to describe woody aromas and flavors; butter, popcorn, and toast notes are found in 'oaky' wines.

 

Organic

Grapes grown without the aid of chemical-based fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides.

 

Oxidized

A wine that is no longer fresh because it was exposed to too much air.

 

pH

An indication of a wine's acidity expressed by how much hydrogen is in it.

 

Phylloxera

A voracious vine louse that over time has destroyed vineyards in Europe and California.

 

Plonk

A derogatory name for cheap, poor-tasting wine.

 

Pomace

The mass of skins, pits, and stems left over after fermentation; used to make grappa in Italy and marc in France.

 

Port

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.

 

Premier Cru

French for 'first growth;' a high-quality vineyard but one not as good as grand cru.

 

Press

The process by which grape juice is extracted prior to fermentation; a machine that extracts juice from grapes.

 

Primeur (en)

A French term for wine sold while it is sill in the barrels; known as 'futures' in English-speaking countries.

 

Pruning

The annual vineyard chore of trimming back plants from the previous harvest.

 

Racking

The process of moving wine from barrel to barrel, while leaving sediment behind.

 

Reserva

A Spanish term for a red wine that has spent at least three years in barrels and bottles before release.

 

Reserve

A largely American term indicating a wine of higher quality; it has no legal meaning.

 

Riddling

The process of rotating Champagne bottles in order to shift sediment toward the cork.

 

Sancerre

An area in the Loire Valley known mostly for wines made from Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Sauternes

A sweet Bordeaux white wine made from botrytized Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.

 

Sherry

A fortified wine from a denominated region in southwest Spain; styles include fino, Manzanilla, oloroso, and amontillado.

 

Silky

A term used to describe a wine with an especially smooth mouthfeel.

 

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.

 

Spicy

A term used to describe certain aromas and flavors that may be sharp, woody, or sweet.

 

Split

A quarter-bottle of wine; a single-serving bottle equal to 175 milliliters.

 

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.

 

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 Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot.

 

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 Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot.

 

Table Wine

A term used to describe wines of between 10 and 14 percent alcohol; in Europe, table wines are those that are made outside of regulated regions or by unapproved methods.

Tannins

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.

 

Terroir

A French term for the combination of soil, climate, and all other factors that influence the ultimate character of a wine.

 

Trocken

German for 'dry.'

 

Varietal

A wine made from just one grape type and named after that grape; the opposite of a blend.

 

Vintage

A particular year in the wine business; a specific harvest.

 

Viticulture

The science and business of growing wine grapes.

 

Yeast

Organisms that issue enzymes that trigger the fermentation process; yeasts can be natural or commercial.

 

Yield

The amount of grapes harvested in a particular year.

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