See Appellation d’Origine Controlée
See Appellation d'Origine Protégée.
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.
A compound present in all grapes and an essential component of wine that preserves it, enlivens and shapes its flavors and helps prolong its aftertaste. There are four major kinds of acids--tartaric, malic, lactic and citric--found in wine. Acid is identifiable by the crisp, sharp character it imparts to a wine.
Used to describe wines whose total acid is so high that they taste tart or sour and have a sharp edge on the palate.
The addition of acid to wine by a winemaker. The goal is to balance the wine’s soft components (sugar, alcohol and fruit). It is legal in some areas—such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Australia and California—to correct deficient acidity by adding acid. When overdone, acidity leads to unusually sharp, acidic wines. It is illegal in Bordeaux and Burgundy to both chaptalize (add sugar to) and acidify a wine.
Identified as the crisp, sharp character in a wine. 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.
Describes the harsh, bitter taste or pungent, nose-biting odor caused by excessive amounts of sulfur added during winemaking. When used properly, sulfur dioxide plays a beneficial role in winemaking; it kills unwanted organisms, protects wines from spoilage and cleans equipment.
This process of encouraging a wine to absorb oxygen is also called breathing. Simply pulling the cork out of a bottle may not allow for sufficient air contact; decanting or even swirling the wine in a glass are preferred methods. The goal is to allow the wine to open up and develop, releasing its aromas into the air. Ten to 30 minutes of aeration can help open tight young red wines that are meant to age. Some wines can also develop off odors or a bottle stink that blows off with a few minutes of aeration. Since older (15-plus years) red wines are more delicate and can lose their fruit during aeration, aeration is not recommended; the wines can evolve quite quickly in the glass.
The taste or flavors that linger in the mouth after the wine is tasted, spit or swallowed. The aftertaste or "finish" is the most important factor in judging a wine's character and quality. Great wines have rich, long, complex aftertastes.
Describes the small number of top wines that have sufficient flavor, acidity, alcohol and tannins to gain additional complexity with time in the bottle. Most popular wines are meant to be enjoyed shortly after release and will only diminish with age.
Unpleasantly harsh in taste or texture, usually due to a high level of tannin or acid.
Storage in barrels, tanks or bottles for a period of time allows wine components to knit together or harmonize and develop additional complexity, sometimes referred to as secondary and tertiary aromas and flavors.
Ethyl alcohol, a chemical compound formed by the action of natural or added yeast on the sugar content of grapes during fermentation.
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."
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.
Also called primary fermentation, this is the process in which yeasts metabolize grape sugars and produce alcohol, carbon dioxide and heat. The final product is wine.
A forest in France that produces oak used for wine barrels.
An alternative to French oak for making barrels in which to age wine. 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. New American oak barrels can be purchased for about half the price of French oak barrels.
American Viticultural Area (AVA):
A delimited, geographical grapegrowing area that has officially been given appellation status by the Alcohol and Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Two examples of AVAs are Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley.
Amontillado is a category of Sherry which begins aging in the same manner as a fino Sherry, with a flor yeast cap to protect from oxidation and keep the wine fresh-tasting, but amontillado is then exposed to oxygen, allowing the wine to darken, becoming richer than a fino but still lighter than an oloroso.
The study of and identification of grape varieties.
A ceramic vessel (typically made of earthenware such as clay or terra cotta and sometimes lined with wax or resin) used to make, age and store wine. For millennia, amphorae were the most popular vessels for storing wine; the earliest known examples date to around 6,000 B.C.
Amtliche Prüfungsnummer :
The tracking number that appears on German wines indicating that the wine has passed a number of tests and meets all German legal requirements.
An inexpensive but risky and difficult-to-control method of producing sparkling wine, and almost certainly the oldest, in which the primary fermentation is stopped before completing, and a secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle, ending when the yeast cells deplete the supply of residual sugar. There is no dosage, or sugar addition, to kick-start the secondary fermentation, and the wine is not disgorged to remove any sediment or lees remaining afterward.
The pigments found in red grape skins that give red wine its color.
Italian term for drying harvested grapes, traditionally on bamboo racks or straw mats, for a few weeks up to several months to concentrate the sugars and flavors. This process is used in making Amarone, Recioto and Sforzato.
Refers to a wine’s clarity, not color. Common descriptors refer to the reflective quality of the wine; brilliant, clear, dull or cloudy for those wines with visible suspended particulates.
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.
Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée:
The French system of appellations, begun in the 1930s and considered the wine world's prototype. To carry an appellation in this system, a wine must follow rules describing the area the grapes are grown in, the varieties used, the ripeness, the alcoholic strength, the vineyard yields and the methods used in growing the grapes and making the wine.
Appellation d'Origine Protégée:
This is the European Union's new designation, meant to replace the old Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée for recognition across the member states. It was officially adopted in January 2016.
Aromas are smells, which originate with the grapes, in contrast to bouquet, which defines smells acquired during bottle-aging. In the process of sensory evaluation, purists also discriminate between wine’s aroma (smells sensed by sniffing the wine through the nose) and its flavor (smells sensed via the mouth).
Describes a wine with intense, often floral, aromas. Particularly aromatic varieties include Gewürztraminer, Muscat and Viognier.
The process of using water sprinklers to protect budding vines from late-spring frosts. The sprinklers are turned on just as temperatures dip below freezing, forming a protective barrier of ice that shields young vine buds from colder temperatures.
French term for blending various lots of wine before bottling, especially in Champagne.
Describes wines that leave a coarse, rough, furry or drying sensation in the mouth. Astringency is usually attributed to high tannin levels found in some red wines (and a few whites). High tannin levels are frequently found in Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
Hungarian dessert wine classification for Tokaji made from individually picked, botrytized grapes.
German classification based on the ripeness level and sugar content of the grapes. Auslesen are made from individually-selected bunches of very ripe grapes that have higher sugar concentrations than those selected for spätlesen, but lower than those selected for beerenauslesen. Auslesen are nearly always sweet wines but can be fermented in drier styles.
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.
A chemical reaction between the wine and the lees by which enzymes break down the dead yeast cells, producing amino acids and releasing proteins and carbohydrates into the wine. It imparts characteristics in a wine such as richness and creaminess as well as aromas of bread dough, toast or brioche. It is a key element of the traditional method of making sparkling wine, such as Champagne.
Describes a wine that has poor structure, is clumsy or is out of balance.
Describes the structure of a wine, referring to balanced acidity, alcohol and, in red wines, tannin. Wines lacking structure are thin or flabby.
Describes a young wine that is less developed than others of its type and class from the same vintage.
A wine is balanced when its elements are harmonious and no single element dominates. The "hard" components—acidity and tannins—balance the "soft" components—sweetness, fruit and alcohol.
A large-format bottle that holds the equivalent of 12 to 16 standard bottles.
Nebbiolo-based red wine made in Italy's Piedmont region.
One of Italy’s most important wines, Barolo is made from 100 percent Nebbiolo grapes in Piedmont.
Denotes a wine that has spent a period of time in barrels before bottling. This affects wine in numerous ways—the flavors in newly blended wines knit together, tannins in red wines soften and white wines become richer and more full-bodied. Aging in new oak barrels (barrels used for the first few times) can add aromas and flavors of vanilla, spice and smoke.
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.
After the wood for a barrel is cut and dried, the cooper heats the wood while shaping it into a barrel. Steam, natural gas, boiling water, the burning of oak chips or some combination of these is used in the three-part heating process. The first application of heat (the warming stage) is called chauffage, the bending of the wooden staves into a barrel shape is called cintrage and, finally, the toasting of the wood for flavor is called bousinage.
French term for small oak barrel.
French term for stirring the lees during the aging and maturation of wine.
A measurement of the dissolved solids in grape juice that indicates the grapes’ sugar level and ripeness and therefore the potential alcohol in the wine. Commonly used by winemakers in France and Australia. Other sugar measurement scales include Oechsle and Brix.
The stream of tiny bubbles found in sparkling wines; a small, persistent bead is an indicator of quality.
Small bean-shaped pieces of wood added to wine during winemaking to impart oak flavors. Less expensive than oak barrels, beans are used primarily in inexpensive wines. They are rounder in shape and thought to add fewer harsh flavors than oak chips.
German classification based on the ripeness level and sugar content of the grapes. Beerenauslesen are made from individually selected grapes that are very ripe. Usually these grapes have been affected by Botrytis cinerea, or noble rot, further concentrating their high sugars. These wines are rare and costly.
A clay compound used in the fining process of white wines. The clay binds with solids that might otherwise cause a white wine to become cloudy, removing them from the wine, although some molecules that would contribute to the wine's flavor profile are also removed in the process.
This term has two meanings. An individual grape is called a berry by grapegrowers. It also describes the set of fruit flavors found in many wines, which includes strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, etc.
A term sometimes used to designate special wines, but often applied to ordinary wines to identify a separate lot or brand.
A farming strategy that combines principles of organic farming and concepts developed by Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher. Some of these include the use of manure and compost as a substitute for artificial chemicals; incorporating livestock into plant care; and the following of an astrological planting calendar.
A marked degree of acidity or tannins. An acid grip on the finish should be more like a zestful tang, and is in general prized only in richer, fuller-bodied wines.
Describes one of the four basic tastes (along with sour, salty and sweet). Some grapes—notably Gewürztraminer and Muscat—often have a noticeable bitter edge to their flavors. Bitterness can also be imparted by the use of underripe or green stems during the fermentation and aging processes. 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.
Another term for red grapes. Also, in medieval times, used specifically in reference to Malbec in Bordeaux and Cahors in France.
Blanc de Blancs:
"White from whites," meaning a white wine made entirely of white grapes, such as Champagne made only of Chardonnay instead of a mix of white and red grape varieties.
Blanc de Noirs:
"White from blacks," meaning a 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. This term is used for Champagne that is made entirely from Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier instead of a mix of both red and white grape varieties.
Wines are blended for many reasons. To make a more harmonious or complex wine, wines with complementary attributes may be blended. For example, a wine with low acidity may be blended with a high-acid wine or a wine with earthy flavors may be blended with a fruity wine. To create a uniform wine from many small batches is another goal, since grapes from different vineyards, stages of the harvest and pressings are frequently vinified separately and the small batches differ slightly. Red Bordeaux offers a prime example; five different grapes may be used, each contributing its own nuances to the blend.
The act of tasting without knowing certain information about the wine. There are two main types of bling tasting: single blind and double blind. Single blind is how editors at Wine Spectator
conduct their official reviews, by "blinding" the producer and price of a wine (the region, varietal(s) and vintage are known), in order to ensure full objectivity. Double blind indicates that none of the wine's characteristics are known.
Strong in flavor and often alcoholic, but lacking in aromatic interest and development on the palate.
Also known as rosé, this term describes a pink or salmon-colored wine made from red grapes. The wine may be dry or sweet.
Spanish term for Estate.
The impression of weight, fullness or thickness on the palate; usually the result of a combination of alcohol, sugar, dissolved solids (including sugars, phenolics, minerals and acids) and, to a lesser extent, glycerin. Common descriptors include light-bodied, medium-bodied and full-bodied. For example, skim milk could be considered "light-bodied," whole milk "medium-bodied" and cream "full-bodied." Although a fuller-bodied wine makes a bigger impression in the mouth, it is not necessarily higher in quality than a lighter-bodied wine.
Also known as "noble rot," it is a beneficial mold that grows on ripe wine grapes in the vineyard under specific climatic conditions. The mold dehydrates the grapes, leaving them shriveled and raisinlike and concentrates the sugars and flavors. Wines made from these berries have a rich, complex, honeyed character and are often high in residual sugar. Botrytis contributes the unique, concentrated flavors in such wines as BA and TBA Rieslings from Germany, Sauternes from Bordeaux, Aszú from Hungary’s Tokay district and an assortment of late-harvest wines from other regions.
A period of time spent in bottle prior to release and/or consumption; a small percentage of wines gain complexity and bouquet during extended bottle aging. The vast majority of wines produced are meant to be consumed shortly after release.
Although a standard wine bottle holds 750 milliliters, or 25.4 ounces, wine bottles vary in shape, depending on regional, cultural and marketing considerations. The basic shapes identify wines by type in most parts of the world. Bordeaux-style wines (red wines made of blends relying on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and/or Cabernet Franc; whites made of Sauvignon Blanc and/or Sémillon) are put in Bordeaux-style bottles with straight sides and high shoulders. Burgundy’s traditional varieties (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) go into slope-shouldered Burgundy-style bottles. Aromatic wines (such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer) usually go into tall, narrow German-style bottles and sparkling wines go into thick, heavy Champagne bottles with deep punts designed to withstand the gas pressure inside.
A temporary condition characterized by muted or disjointed flavors. It often occurs immediately after bottling or when wines (usually fragile, older wines) are shaken in travel; a few days of rest is the cure.
A temporary condition characterized by muted or disjointed fruit flavors. It often occurs immediately after bottling or when wines (usually fragile, older wines) are shaken in travel. A few days of rest is the cure.
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.
Putting wine into bottle is an automated process. The bottle is washed, dried and then filled with wine. Before the cork is inserted, a puff of inert gas displaces any oxygen remaining in the bottle to prevent spoilage.
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.
Wine sold in a cardboard box, as an alternative packaging to glass bottles. More accurately referred to as bag-in-box wines, the wine is packaged in a plastic bladder fitted with a spout and contained by a cardboard box. Another category of box wines is packaged in aseptic foil-and-paper containers called Tetra Paks.
Describes wines that are hard, intense and tannic with raw, woody flavors. The opposite of elegant.
A spoilage yeast that can cause what are commonly described as barnyard aromas and flavors in a wine. Some people feel that, in small amounts, it can add a pleasant spicy, leathery component or complexity to a wine. Others feel that it is a flaw in any amount. Sensory thresholds and tolerance of brett vary.
Describes young wines with an earthy or stemmy wild berry character.
Used for fresh, ripe, zesty, lively young wines with vivid, focused flavors.
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 from which many of the components that contribute flavor have been stripped.
A measurement of the sugar content of grapes, must and wine, indicating the degree of the grapes' ripeness (meaning sugar level) at harvest. Most table-wine grapes are harvested at between 21 and 25 Brix. To get an alcohol conversion level, multiply the stated Brix by .55.
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.
A general term used to designate a relatively dry-finished Champagne or sparkling wine. In Champagne, the scale from driest to sweetest is: Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra-Dry (or Extra-Sec), Dry (or Sec), Demi-Sec and Doux.
The driest Champagne or sparkling wine. In Champagne, the scale from driest to sweetest is: Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra-Dry (or Extra-Sec), Dry (or Sec), Demi-Sec and Doux.
Refers to the start of the new growing season, when tender green buds emerge in early spring’s warm temperatures; typically March in the Northern Hemisphere and September in the Southern Hemisphere. The vines are especially vulnerable to frost at this stage.
The rubber, glass or plastic stopper that can be placed into a barrel’s bung hole, similar to a cork placed in a wine bottle. Barrels are usually filled through the bung hole.
Describes wines that have an overdone, smoky, toasty or singed edge. Also used to describe overripe grapes.
Indicates the smell of melted butter or toasty oak. Also a reference to texture, as in "a rich, buttery Chardonnay."
Refers to the section of a restaurant's wine list that offers wines by the glass as opposed to by the bottle. Convenient for small parties and/or moderate drinking, these selections tend to have higher mark-ups.
A branch of a vine.
The green foliage of a grapevine is called the canopy. The canopy can be trimmed or thinned to manage the amount of air and sun reaching the fruit, improving fruit quality, increasing yield and controlling disease.
The thick layer of skins, stems and seeds that forms at the surface of fermenting red wine. Cap management, or breaking up the cap to increase contact between the skins and the liquid, is important since red wines extract color and flavor from the skins.
The metal or plastic protective coating that surrounds the top of the cork and the bottle. Before pulling out the cork, at least the top portion should be removed to expose the cork and the lip of the bottle.
Most frequently associated with Beaujolais, this is a method of producing light-bodied, fresh and fruity red wines. Instead of crushing the grapes and releasing the juices to be fermented by yeasts, whole grape bunches are placed in a tank and the oxygen is displaced by carbon dioxide. Fermentation starts on an intracellular level inside the berry, producing some alcohol as well as fruity aromatics. In practice, the weight of the grapes on the top crushes the grapes on the bottom and yeasts ferment the juice; the wine is partly a product of carbonic maceration and partly of traditional yeast fermentation.
Spanish for house. In wine terms, synonymous with "bodega."
A case of wine in the United States typically contains 9 liters or 12 standard 750ml bottles of wine. The size of wineries is most frequently measured in the number of cases produced annually.
A dairy-based protein used in the fining process. Casein is particularly effective at clarifying cloudy or off-colored white wines.
A term sometimes used to designate special wines, as in Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23, but often applied to ordinary wines to identify a separate lot or brand. Synonymous with bin number.
Spanish term for sparkling wine made using the traditional méthode Champenoise.
French term for Cellar.
Denotes the smell of cedar wood associated with mature Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet blends aged in French or American oak.
The room in a winery where wine is made or stored. Can also refer to a personal wine collection in a residence.
Means the wine was not produced at the winery where it was bottled. It usually indicates that the wine was purchased from another source.
French term for grape variety.
Another French term for Cellar.
The addition of sugar to juice before and/or during fermentation, used to boost sugar levels in underripe grapes and alcohol levels in the subsequent wines. Common in northern European countries, where the cold climates may keep grapes from ripening, but forbidden in southern Europe (including southern France and all of Italy) and California.
A less expensive, mass-production method for producing bulk quantities of sparkling wine. The second fermentation takes place in a pressurized tank, rather than in a bottle, decreasing lees contact and producing larger, coarser bubbles. The wine is filtered under pressure and bottled. Also known as the bulk process or tank method. Wines made this way cannot be labeled méthode Champenoise.
French term for "castle." In the wine world, it translates loosely as "estate." However, in France, the term is protected.
Chef de Cave:
French term for cellarmaster or head winemaker.
Describes highly extracted, full-bodied and tannic wines that are so rich they seem as if they should be chewed, rather than simply swallowed.
Aroma frequently associated with mature Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet blends, this descriptor refers to the cedary and tobacco leaf scents associated with cigar boxes.
The British term for red wines from Bordeaux. Originally the wines were quite pale or nearly clear in color, giving rise to the term clairet.
Referring to the amount of suspended particulate matter in a wine, clarity is described in terms of the wine’s reflective quality; brilliant, clear, dull or hazy. A pronounced haziness may signify spoilage, while brilliant, clear or dull wines are generally sound.
Included in Bordeaux's 1855 Classification, which ranked châteaus from first-growth to fifth-growth. The original classification was set by the prices that the wines fetched and was intended to be synonymous with quality.
Fresh on the palate and free of any off-taste.
French term for a vineyard site defined by its micro-climate and various other aspects of terroir. The term is most commonly associated with Burgundy.
The long-term weather pattern—including temperature, precipitation and hours of sunshine—in a specific region. In contrast, weather is associated with a specific event, such as a hailstorm.
Vineyard management term for a technique by which dead or under-performing vines are replaced with new vines grown from a single superior vine, or mother vine.
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.
A French term used to describe a walled vineyard, such as Clos du Vougeot in Burgundy.
Describes wines that are concentrated and have character, yet are shy in aroma or flavor. Closed wines may open up to reveal more flavors and aromas with aging or aeration.
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. Cloudiness may also represent a deliberate choice by the winemaker not to filter a wine.
Describes ultra-sweet or sugary wines that lack the balance provided by acid, alcohol, bitterness or intense flavor.
Usually refers to texture, and in particular, excessive tannin or oak. Also used to describe harsh bubbles in sparkling wines.
Sparkling wine production method for traditional Prosecco, in which the spent yeast cells, or lees, left over from the secondary fermentation are not disgorged.
A clarification technique that can prevent the formation of crystals in wine bottles. Prior to bottling, the wine's temperature is lowered to approximately 30° F for two weeks, causing the tartrates and other solids to precipitate out of solution. The wine is then easily racked off (separated from) the solids.
Portuguese term for "vintage."
An element in all great wines and many very good ones; a combination of richness, depth, flavor intensity, focus, balance, harmony and finesse.
Describes a dull, stewed flavor associated with wines adversely affected by excessive heat during shipping or storage.
The facility where wine barrels are made.
A wine company that is owned and managed by a group of vineyard owners who bottle their wine under one label, sharing the profits. Wine cooperatives are typically associated with cheaper, often bulk, wine.
An appliance that allows wine to be removed from an unopened bottle of wine via a hollow needle.
Refers to a method of vine training. Cordon-trained vines are supported by a trellising system; typically one or two cordons, or branches, are trained horizontally out of the main trunk.
The fee charged by restaurants when guests bring their own bottle of wine rather than ordering from the wine list.
Describes a wine having the off-putting, musty, moldy-newspaper flavor and aroma and dry aftertaste caused by a tainted cork.
Spanish term for "vintage."
During flowering in the spring, wind and rain as well as chemical deficiencies can keep grapevine flowers from being properly fertilized, causing these flowers to drop off the cluster. This dropping of flowers is called coulure, or shatter. Since each flower is responsible for a grape, the cluster of grapes that eventually forms is loose and missing grapes. If the improperly fertilized flower stays attached, it produces a puny, seedless grape called a "shot" grape. Although the yield is reduced, there is a corresponding benefit—loose clusters that allow for increased air circulation are less susceptible to rot in humid conditions.
One of Spain’s quality classifications, it requires that reds are aged for two years, with at least a year in wood, and whites a total of six months.
Describes a wine with moderately high acidity; refreshing and bright with a clean finish.
A French term, "cru" generally refers to a vineyard or group of vineyards that have similar characteristics.
The term "cru" is officially codified in some old world countries and regions. In Bordeaux, the highest quality wines are called Premiers Crus and in Burgundy, Grands Crus.
In other countries like Italy, "cru" can simply refer to a single-vineyard bottling that may or may not be classified.
Wines from the ten subregions—Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly—as opposed to the regional Beaujolais or Beaujolais-Villages AOCs. They are typically better in quality.
Harvest season when the grapes are picked and crushed.
A blend or special lot of wine.
A technique that removes sediment from wine before drinking. After allowing the sediment to settle by standing the bottle upright for the day, the wine is poured slowly and carefully into another container, leaving the sediment in the original bottle.
A method of classifying the climate based on the number of days the temperature is within a range that vines can grow. In California, climates are rated from coolest (Region I) to the warmest (Region V). This classification can help winemakers determine where to plant which variety.
French term for racking and returning a wine back to the tank. Wine is pumped out of the fermenting tank and back over the cap to facilitate extraction of color and flavor.
Used to describe light- to medium-weight wines with good flavors. A desirable quality in wines such as Pinot Noir or Riesling.
A non-profit organization that promotes and certifies biodynamic farming.
A French term for 600-liter capacity oak barrels, typically used in the Rhône Valley.
Designates a medium-sweet wine, though the term—which translates literally to half-dry—is potentially confusing. Most often used for Champagne or other sparkling wines, the term also appears on semi-sweet wines from the Loire Valley and other French regions.
Has a dosage level that yields 32 to 50 g/l of residual sugar. In Champagne, the scale from driest to sweetest is: Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra-Dry (or Extra-Sec), Dry (or Sec), Demi-Sec and Doux.
Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.Ca.):
One of Spain’s regulatory classification systems, created in the early 1990s, and the highest given to a wine region. Rioja and Priorat are the only two Spanish wine regions to have earned the D.O.Ca.
Denominazione di Origine Controllata (D.O.C.) :
The Italian system for defining wine regions and wine names. In addition, the D.O.C.G. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) covers regions willing to submit their wines to tougher requirements, including tasting approval.
Describes a wine that has concentrated aromas on the nose and palate. A good sign in young wines.
Describes the complexity and concentration of flavors in a wine, as in a wine with excellent or uncommon depth. Opposite of shallow.
The process of removing the grape berries from the stems once the grapes have been harvested and brought into the winery. The goal is to minimize the amount of astringent tannins that stems can add to wine.
The removal of young, non-fruit-bearing shoots from a vine.
A wine classification within Germany’s lowest level of wines, Tafelwein; indicates that the grapes were grown in Germany.
Also known as délestage, the oxidative winemaking process in which, after the cap of grape musts, skins, seeds and stems forms on the top of a vat of fermenting wine, the wine is drained through a valve at the base of the tank into another vat and reserved while the remaining solids are allowed to drain for a few hours. The reserved wine is then pumped back into the original tank over the top of the drained skins, seeds and stems. Like punch downs and pump overs, the purpose of devatting is to increase the extraction of color, flavor, tannins and aromas from the solids, as well as aerate the fermenting wine.
Refers to a wine that is starting to show signs of age in flavor, aroma or color.
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.
When making sparkling wine, this technique is used to remove frozen sediment remaining in the bottle after the second fermentation. Through the riddling process, the sediment settles in the bottle neck and the neck is then dipped into a brine solution and frozen. Working quickly, the bottle is turned upright and the crown cap removed. The plug of frozen sediment is ejected by the pressure of the carbon dioxide. Also known as Dégorgement.
Describes wine with components that are not well-knit, harmonious or balanced. The timing of the components may be off; upon tasting, a disjointed wine might first reveal big fruit, followed by a blast of screeching acidity and finishing off with a dose of tannins.
Diurnal Temperature Difference:
The difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures, which can affect the speed of ripening and grape quality. Shifts can be considerable; parts of Napa Valley regularly experience a 40-degree difference.
Italian term for "sweet."
In bottle-fermented sparkling wines, a small amount of wine (usually mixed with sugar) that is added back to the bottle once the yeast sediment that collects in the neck of the bottle is disgorged. Also known as liqueur d'expedition.
Designates a sweet Champagne or sparkling wine. In Champagne, the scale from driest to sweetest is: Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra-Dry (or Extra-Sec), Dry (or Sec), Demi-Sec and Doux.
Has a dosage level that yields more than 50 g/l of residual sugar.
An irrigation process associated with grapegrowing. Hoses with individual spouts for each vine deliver precise amounts of water, drop by drop. This saves water and allows grapegrowers to carefully control the water vines receive in dry areas.
Having no perceptible taste of sugar. Most wine tasters begin to perceive sugar at levels of 0.5 percent to 0.7 percent.
Has a dosage level that yields 17 to 32 g/l of residual sugar.
A misleading term, which designates a fairly sweet Champagne or sparkling wine. In Champagne, the scale from driest to sweetest is: Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra-Dry (or Extra-Sec), Dry (or Sec), Demi-Sec and Doux.
Agricultural technique that prohibits irrigation; it is mandatory in some wine regions—and in most of Europe—and strongly encouraged in other drought-susceptible areas, such as California's Paso Robles, Sierra Foothills and Santa Barbara County.
Losing fruit (or sweetness in sweet wines) to the extent that acid, alcohol or tannin dominate the taste. At this stage the wine will not improve.
Describes a phase young wines undergo when their flavors and aromas are undeveloped.
Denotes a wine made from early-harvested grapes, usually lower than average in alcoholic content or sweetness.
Describes wines with aromas or flavors of soil or earth. In small amounts the aromas or flavors can add complexity and be positive characteristics, but become negative as the intensity increases. Frequently associated with Pinot Noir.
French term for debudding vines. This is performed early in the growing season as part of yield control and canopy management.
French term for green harvest, or crop thinning. Grape bunches are removed to improve air flow through the canopy, facilitate the ripening of the remaining bunches and reduce the crop yield.
German term for Botrytis cinerea, or noble rot.
Wine made from grapes that have frozen on the vine. Since only the water in the grapes freezes, the super-concentrated grape pulp produces a wine that is very sweet and often high in acidity. Eiswein is an official German classification; such wines from other regions are called ice wine.
Describes balanced, harmonious, refined wines; subtle rather than a highly-extracted blockbuster.
French term for the progression of wine between fermentation and bottling. Comparable to the term "raising" in English; think of élevage as a wine's adolescence or education. The raw fermented juice is shaped during this period into something resembling its final form, through techniques such as barrel aging, filtering and fining. Good winemaking decisions during élevage can help the juice achieve its full potential; bad decisions can leave it flawed.
Similar to hollow; devoid of flavor and interest.
Also known as "futures" in the American market, en primeur sales typically refer to Bordeaux, but not exclusively. The en primeur offerings are a winery's first offer of a particular vintage, when the initial price is set, and offers buyers the opportunity to purchase wines before they are released.
A scientist involved with winemaking.
The science and study of winemaking. Also spelled oenology.
A property of land which may include vineyards. See also Estate-Bottled.
A term once used by producers for those wines made from vineyards that they owned and that were contiguous to the winery "estate." Today it indicates the winery either owns the vineyard or has a long-term lease to purchase the grapes.
The fragrant chemical compounds responsible for the aromas and flavors found in food and wine.
Turkish dessert wine classification for Tokaji made from the free-run juice of individually picked, botrytized aszú berries.
A sweet, vinegary smell that often accompanies acetic acid. It exists to some extent in all wines and in small doses can be a plus. When it is strong and smells like nail polish, it's a defect.
A dry Champagne or sparkling wine. In Champagne, the scale from driest to sweetest is: Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra-Dry (or Extra-Sec), Dry (or Sec), Demi-Sec and Doux.
A misleading term, which designates a relatively sweet Champagne or sparkling wine. In Champagne, the scale from driest to sweetest is: Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra-Dry (or Extra-Sec), Dry (or Sec), Demi-Sec and Doux.
Richness, depth and concentration of fruit flavors in a wine. Usually a positive quality, extract adds to wine’s body, yet highly extracted wine can also be very tannic. To calculate extract levels, some winemakers measure the dry residue remaining after the wine is boiled off.
Describes a wine that is losing color, fruit or flavor, usually as a result of age.
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.
Unregulated German term for wines that are off-dry. Feinherb is often used in place of the less popular designation halbtrocken, as well as for wines that are slightly sweeter than regulations dictate for halbtrockens.
Describes wines with qualities such as smoothness, roundness, gentleness, finesse, elegance and delicacy. Usage of "feminine" is in decline in favor of these more specific terms.
The process by which yeast converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide; turns grape juice into wine.
When a vineyard is planted to several different varieties and the grapes are harvested together to produce a single wine, the wine is called a field blend.
This term was coined in the 1980s to describe a new category of wines, labeled as varietals but priced nearly as inexpensively as generics (e.g., "Mountain Chablis" or "Hearty Burgundy"). Glen Ellen was one of the first to sell good quality Chardonnay and Cabernet for $4 to $6 per bottle. Since then, the category has expanded; it includes varietals such as Merlot, producers from regions as far-flung as Chile, Australia and the south of France, and prices up to nearly $10 per bottle. But the concept is the same: a varietal wine of good quality at an everyday price.
The amount of wine in a bottle is gauged by its height in the bottle. Common descriptors are good fill, high shoulder (the wine level is even with the sloping part of the bottle just below the neck), or low shoulder. Important since fill level is an indicator of the wine’s condition and whether it has been properly stored. The air space in the bottle, called ullage, can cause harmful oxidation.
Pumping wine through a screen or pad to remove leftover grape and fermentation particles. Most wines are filtered for both clarity and stability, although many winemakers believe that some flavors and complexity are also stripped from the wine.
A technique for clarifying wine using agents such as bentonite (powdered clay), isinglass (fish bladder), casein (milk protein), gelatin or egg whites, which combine with sediment particles and cause them to settle to the bottom, where they can be easily removed.
One key to judging a wine's quality is finish—a measure of the taste or flavors that linger in the mouth after the wine is tasted. Great wines have rich, long, complex finishes.
Fino is the driest classification of Sherry wines. The freshest and palest category of Sherry, finos are protected from oxygenation by a cap of flor yeast while aging in barrel.
See Classified Growth. They are: Château Haut-Brion, Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Margaux and Château Mouton-Rothschild.
Describes a wine that is unbalanced due to insufficient acidity, lacking backbone.
Describes a wine that is dull in flavor and unbalanced due to insufficient acidity. Can also refer to a sparkling wine that has lost its bubbles.
Describing a wine with good extract and a smooth texture. The sensation of drinking the wine recalls biting into ripe, fleshy fruit such as a plum.
A set of wines that are compared and contrasted with one another. A single flight can include as few as two wines, but three to six wines are common.
A descriptor for extremely dry white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, whose bouquet can be reminiscent of flint struck against steel.
Flor is the Spanish term for a cap of yeast that forms over Sherry wine as it ages in barrel, protecting the wine from oxidation.
Floral (also Flowery):
Literally, having the characteristic aromas of flowers. Mostly associated with white wines.
The emergence of tiny blossoms on grapevines in late spring. An important time of year, since spring rains and winds can disrupt flowering, reducing the potential crop.
Denotes a wine whose alcohol content has been increased by the addition of brandy or neutral spirits.
A large wooden vat, popular in France's Rhône Valley, significantly larger than typical oak barrels, often with the capacity to hold more than a thousand liters of wine.
A term used to describe the unique musky and grapey character of many native American labrusca grape varieties.
The juice released by a pile of grapes as their skins split under their own weight, before they are mechanically pressed. With white wines, this initial juice is considered to be the highest quality since it has the least amount of contact with bitter elements in the pips, skins and stems.
The traditional wood for wine barrels, which supplies vanilla, cedar and sometimes butterscotch flavors. Used for red and white wines. Much more expensive than American oak, new French oak barrels can cost twice as much as new American barrels.
Despite a high-fat diet, the French have low rates of coronary heart disease. An explanation may be found in scientific evidence that points to the benefits of moderate wine consumption.
Having a lively, clean and fruity character. An essential for young wines.
Italian term for sparkling wines with lighter effervescence and fewer bubbles than found in ordinary sparkling wines. Not a fault, it is a stylistic choice in many Italian sparklers.
Subfreezing temperatures, which can damage or kill vines, are especially harmful in the early spring after budbreak. Heaters known as smudge pots, wind machines that keep cold air from settling in the vineyard and aspersion (using water sprinklers to form a protective barrier of ice around young vine buds) may be used when frosts are forecast. In the winter, before budbreak, a moderate frost can be a blessing; it hardens the vine’s wood and also kills spores and pests living under the bark.
In late spring or early summer, fertilized flowers swell into tiny bunches of grapes.
Having the aroma and taste of fruit or fruits.
A rich, extracted wine with a mouthfilling sensation of weight or mass.
A wine sold to consumers several months, sometimes years, before its release. The initial futures offering is touted as a lower price than will be offered when the wine officially hits the market. The practice is most commonly associated with Bordeaux's annual en primeur
A micro-négociant specializing in very limited-production wines, often known as "vins de garage," or garage wines, because their production size is such that they could be made in a garage. The movement began on Bordeaux's Right Bank in St.-Emilion with Châteaus Le Pin and Valandraud, but the term is now often applied to micro-négociants the world over.
Low-growing shrubbery on the limestone hills of the Mediterranean coast. As a wine descriptor, garrigue refers to the aroma of the bushy, fragrant plants that grow wild in southern France, such as juniper, thyme, rosemary and lavender.
The same active gel found in Jell-O, this animal product is used in the fining process to bind with excess tannins so that they may be removed during filtration.
Lower-quality blends with names like "Mountain White" that are frequently made from inexpensive varieties. New World wines using place names such as Chablis or Burgundy as generic terms have largely disappeared thanks to international trade agreements; understandably, wine producers in those places do not appreciate the use of their name on wines from other areas that may be made from different grape varieties or according to different standards.
Produced during fermentation, glycerin contributes to the wine’s body.
Goüt de Terroir:
French for "the taste of terroir
," meaning the unique characteristics imparted by a specific site.
Describes a wine that is harmonious and pleasing in a subtle way.
Uniting two plants so they grow as one. Most often used to join phylloxera-resistant rootstock with vitis vinifera buds that will bear fruit.
Gran Reserva, the highest level of Spain’s quality categories, is only made in the best vintages. This distinction requires reds to be aged at least five years with a minimum of two in oak.
French, literally "great growth," or the top tier of vineyards and their wines in regions that use the term. For example, in Burgundy, these wines are one step above Premier Cru.
Grand Cru Classé:
French term used to categorize vineyards by quality. In Bordeaux’s Médoc region, for example, five levels of Grand Cru Classé were established in 1855.
The premier cuvée made by a winery. Grand vin, or "great wine," is an unregulated term frequently used in Bordeaux to indicate that a wine is the best of multiple wines made at a given winery.
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.
A signature descriptor for Sauvignon Blanc and a pleasant one unless overbearing and pungent.
Gray rot sets in when the fruit fungus Botrytis cinerea, as a result of persistent wet, humid conditions, overruns a crop and destroys the fruit. Fruit afflicted with gray rot appears to be covered in a carpet of gray fur.
Tasting of unripe fruit. Wines made from unripe grapes will often possess this quality. Generally not considered a positive attribute but may be pleasant in Riesling and Gewürztraminer.
The trimming of unripe grapes to decrease crop yields, thereby improving the concentration of the remaining bunches.
A welcome firmness of texture, usually from tannin, which helps give definition to wines such as Cabernet and Port.
German term meaning "half-dry." Contains some residual sugar, but not more than 18g/l.
The amount of time a grape spends ripening on the vine.
Firm; a quality that usually results from high acidity or tannins. Often a descriptor for young red wines.
Well balanced, with no component obtrusive or lacking.
Used to describe astringent wines that are tannic or high in alcohol.
The process of picking the grapes, whether by hand or machine. Also the time period when the grapes are picked; usually September through October in the northern hemisphere and March through April in the southern hemisphere.
Used to describe a wine that has small amounts of visible matter. Characteristic of wines that are unfined and unfiltered.
Refers to a method of vine training. Head-trained vines are free-standing; a trunk is formed from which several branches will grow vertically, resembling a small tree.
Used to describe high-alcohol wines.
Used to describe the full, warm, sometimes rustic qualities found in red wines with high alcohol.
A quantity of land equivalent to 10,000 square meters or 2.47 acres. Used frequently in Europe to measure vineyard size.
A quantity of liquid equivalent to 100 liters or 26.4 gallons. In most of Europe, yield is measured in hectoliters per hectare vs. tons per acre in the U.S.
Describes the aromas and flavors of herbs in a wine. A plus in many wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and, to a lesser extent, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Herbal is a synonym, though when the concentration of the aroma is high, and becomes less than pleasant, the term herbaceous is often used.
Lacking in flavor, especially in the midpalate. Describes a wine that has some flavor on the beginning of the sip and on the finish, but is missing intensity or distinct flavors in between.
An evaluation of wines from a single vintage; the wines may highlight producers from a single region or the same grape variety from many regions, among other permutations.
High alcohol, unbalanced wines that tend to burn with "heat" on the finish are called hot. Acceptable in Port-style wines.
See Indication Géographique Protégée.
See Indicazione Geografica Tipica.
A dessert wine made from frozen grapes.
A large-format bottle holding 6 liters; the equivalent of eight standard 750ml bottles. The Bordelaise equivalent of Burgundy’s Methuselah.
Indication Géographique Protégée:
This is the European Union's new designation, meant to replace the old Vin de Pays for recognition across the member states. It was officially adopted in January 2016.
Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT):
Italian quality classification meaning "wine typical of a region." Indicazione Geografica Tipica is one level above the base category, Vino da Tavola. It can also be used by super Tuscans.
The process in which a winemaker introduces yeast to the must to kick-start fermentation.
Intensity relates to appearance and aroma. When evaluating appearance, intensity describes the concentration of color. The more concentrated and opaque a wine's color, the higher its intensity. Common descriptors for color intensity are pale, medium or dark. When evaluating aroma and flavor, the more pronounced or evident the characteristic, the more intense the wine.
Watering the vines. Banned in some regions, yet indispensable to establishing and maintaining vineyards in arid regions, especially where soils retain little moisture. Two methods include drip irrigation and the less precise flood irrigation.
A protein derived from the bladders of sturgeon and other fish and used in the fining process. The protein binds with excess tannins, pulling them from overly harsh wines.
The Bordelaise use this term for large-format bottles holding 4.5 liters, or the equivalent of six bottles. In Burgundy and Champagne, the Jeroboam is the same size as Bordeaux’s double magnum and holds 3 liters, or four bottles of wine.
American term for inexpensive, ordinary wines sold in half-gallon or gallon jug bottles. Sales in this category are currently declining as wine drinkers look for higher-quality wines.
German classification based on the ripeness level and sugar content of the grapes. At the entry level of Prädikatswein, the highest group of quality German wines, kabinette are usually low in alcohol, with crisp acidity. The wines can be dry, halbtrocken (half-dry) or sweet.
Wine made according to Jewish dietary laws (the kashrut) and certified by rabbinical authorities. Only observant orthodox Jews can handle kosher wine during the winemaking process, including tasks such as racking and drawing samples from barrels. Common fining agents forbidden in the production of kosher wine include casein and isinglass, though the use of egg whites is permitted.
A smooth (not sharp) acid created during malolactic fermentation. This acid is also found in milk.
German quality classification. Landwein is a slightly higher quality level within the Tafelwein, the lowest designation.
On labels, indicates that a wine was made from grapes picked later than normal and at a higher sugar (Brix) level than normal. Usually associated with botrytized and dessert-style wines.
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.
Describes wines made in an austere style. Not necessarily a critical term, but when used as a term of criticism, it indicates a wine is lacking in fruit.
The aroma of old leather club chairs, most frequently associated with older red wines.
Sediment—dead yeast cells, grapeseeds, stems, pulp and tartrates (harmless tartaric acid crystals)—remaining in a barrel or tank during and after fermentation. Immediately following fermentation, wine should be racked off of the gross lees, the large particulate matter such as seeds, skins and stems, which are rich in spoilage organisms. The wine may be aged for an extended period on the fine lees, however, in what's called "sur lie" aging. Fine lees, the dead yeast cells leftover from fermentation, can enhance an aging wine with added richness, flavor and aroma complexity, and can also bind with excess tannins.
Aromas and flavors resulting from a wine having spent some time on its lees, typically adding rich, creamy and yeasty components to its profile.
Refers to the wine regions to the immediate west of the Gironde river in Bordeaux. The Left Bank comprises the wine regions of the Médoc and the Graves.
The viscous droplets that form and ease down the sides of the glass when the wine is swirled.
The amount of time that taste, flavor or mouthfeel persist after swallowing a wine. The longer the finish, the better the wine quality. Common descriptors are short, long and lingering.
Place name, or named vineyard, the smallest parcel that can be named in an appellation.
A forest near Limoges, France, that produces oak for barrels. The loose-grained wood from this area readily imparts flavors to wine.
Used to describe the persistence of flavor in a wine after tasting. When the aftertaste remains on the palate for several seconds, it is said to be lingering.
Liqueur de Tirage:
A solution of wine, sugar and yeast added to a bottle of still base wine to begin the traditional method of making Champagne, or méthode traditionnelle. The addition of the liqueur de tirage triggers the secondary fermentation which gives sparkling wine its bubbles.
Describes wines that are fresh and fruity, bright and vivacious.
Luscious (or Lush):
Describes wines that are soft, viscous, fleshy and round; more often associated with sweet white wines than rich red wines.
This process, used primarily in making red wine, involves steeping grape skins and solids in wine after fermentation, when alcohol acts as a solvent to extract color, tannins and aroma from the skins (aided by heat, the amount of skin contact and time). Cold maceration (steeping when the must is not heated), takes place before fermentation.
Made and Bottled By:
On U.S. labels, this indicates only that the winery crushed, fermented and bottled a minimum of 10 percent of the wine in the bottle.
Describes the brownish color and slightly sweet, somewhat caramelized and often nutty character found in mature dessert-style wines.
An oversized bottle that holds 1.5 liters.
A sharp, tart acid found in grapes as well as in green apples. Less-ripe grapes or grapes grown in cooler climates can contain high levels of malic acid; the resulting wines often contain aromas and flavors reminiscent of green apples. It is converted to smoother lactic acid during malolactic fermentation.
Malolactic Fermentation (ML):
A bacterial conversion occurring in most wines, this natural process converts sharper malic acid (found in green apples) into softer lactic acid (found in milk). Total acidity is reduced; the wines become softer, rounder and more complex. In addition, malolactic fermentation stabilizes wines by preventing an undesirable fermentation in the bottle. Often called the secondary fermentation. Frequently associated with big, rich, buttery Chardonnay, malolactic fermentation is prevented when fresher, crisper styles are desired.
Manzanilla is a category of fino Sherry made only in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. It is lighter and drier than most finos.
Describes wines with firmness, power and strength.
The stage at which the wine will not gain any additional complexity with further bottle aging and is ready to drink. Also describes grapes when they are fully ripe.
Describes red wines that show plenty of concentration and a chewy quality. They may even have an aroma of cooked meat.
The thin rim at the edge of a wine's surface where the wine meets the glass.
Also known chemically as thiols, mercaptans are organosulfur compounds that emit unpleasant, skunky aromas of rubber, sulfur or garlic. Mercaptans are often encountered in wines suffering from reduction (in which case exposure to oxygen may alleviate the flaw) as well as in very old white wines.
An invented term, used by California wineries, for Bordeaux-style red and white blended wines. Combines "merit" with "heritage." 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, Petit Verdot and Malbec; for whites, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. Joseph Phelps Insignia and Flora Springs Trilogy are examples of wines whose blends vary each year, with no one grape dominating.
The labor-intensive process whereby wine undergoes a secondary fermentation inside the bottle, creating bubbles. The process begins with the addition of a liqueur de tirage (a wine solution of sugar and yeast) to a bottle of still base wine, triggering a secondary fermentation inside the bottle which produces both carbon dioxide and spent yeast cells, or lees, which are collected in the neck of the bottle during the riddling process. The lees are then disgorged from the bottle, and replaced with a solution of wine and sugar, giving the sparkling wine its sweetness. All Champagne and most high-quality sparkling wine is made by this process. Also known as méthode Champenoise, méthode classique and metodo classico.
An extra-large bottle holding 6 liters; the equivalent of eight standard bottles.
This technique, used almost exclusively on red wines, allows winemakers to control the amount of oxygen that wines in tank are exposed to. The apparatus involves chambers connected by tubes and valves to an oxygen tank. Small, measured amounts of oxygen are allowed to pass through the wine via a porous stone or ceramic plate at or near the base of the tank. The benefits of this type of oxygen exposure include prevention of oxidation and reduction as well as promotion of healthy yeast cultures, which prevent stuck fermentations. Micro-oxygenation is also believed to soften tannins and, in conjunction with the use of oak chips, is frequently practiced as an alternative to oak barrel aging.
Also known as "hens and chicks," millerandage is an irregular fruit set in which the berries on a grape cluster are not uniform in size, with some achieving full size while others remain tiny and seedless.
Mis en bouteille:
French term meaning "put in bottle." Featured on the back of a wine label, succeeded by the name of the estate where the wine was bottled.
A strong northwesterly wind current that is active in southern France. It has a cooling and moisture-mitigating effect on grapegrowing.
An appellation or other designated winegrowing region controlled entirely by one winery. Notable examples include Domaine de la Romanée-Conti's Romanée-Conti and La Tâche grands crus in Burgundy and Château Grillet's Château-Grillet AOC in the Northern Rhône Valley.
The frothy head that forms at the surface of sparkling wine.
Describes the sensation of wine in the mouth. Most descriptors are related to texture, for example: silky, smooth, velvety and rough. Mouthfeel is influenced by wine components, as acidity can be sharp, alcohol can be hot, tannins can be rough and sugar can be thick or cloying.
More than deeply colored; lacking brightness, turbid and sometimes a bit swampy. Mainly a fault of red wines.
The unfermented juice of grapes extracted by crushing or pressing; grape juice in the cask or vat before it is converted into wine.
Measurement of the sugar content in grape must, or unfermented grape juice, which indicates the potential alcohol of the juice were all of the sugar to be converted to alcohol during fermentation. Like Brix, Baumé and Oechsle, must weight is more accurately a measurement of the must's density or specific gravity.
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.
Diminished sensory perception; not uncommon after sniffing the same scent a number of times.
Also known as indigenous or wild yeasts, these are yeasts that occur naturally on the grapes or in the cellar, rather than commercially cultured yeasts; both are used for fermentation. Some argue that native yeasts are more authentic, but most producers favor the reliability of cultured yeasts.
A giant wine bottle holding 15 liters; the equivalent of 20 standard bottles.
A French wine merchant who buys grapes and vinifies them, or buys wines and blends them, bottles the result under his own label and ships them. Particularly found in Burgundy. Two well-known examples are Joseph Drouhin and Louis Jadot.
A forest in France that produces hard, medium-grained oak for barrels.
Refers to the first time a barrel is used, when it has the greatest impact on wine. With successive uses, the wood imparts fewer flavors and tannins. Flavors associated with new oak include vanilla, cedar, toast and smoke. The wood tannins in newer barrels add firmness to the wine's structure. As with most components in wine, moderation and balance are key; new oak can be a positive or a negative influence, depending on whether it subtly enhances the wine or overpowers the fruit flavors.
The New World is comprised of countries that have started producing wine more recently than the countries of Europe, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and South Africa.
Noble Grapes (Alsace):
Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Muscat. The French term is cépages nobles
. These varieties, if made from Alsace Grand Cru vineyards, can be labeled under the Alsace Grand Cru AOC.
Also known by its scientific name, Botrytis cinerea, noble rot is a beneficial mold that grows on ripe wine grapes in the vineyard under specific climatic conditions. The mold dehydrates the grapes, leaving them shriveled and raisinlike and concentrates the sugars and flavors. Wines made from these berries have a rich, complex, honeyed character and are often high in residual sugar. Noble rot contributes the unique, concentrated flavors in such wines as BA and TBA Riesling from Germany, Sauternes from Bordeaux, Aszu from Hungary’s Tokay district and an assortment of late-harvest wines from other regions.
Considered the classic grape varieties, originating in the Old World, which have the ability to make outstanding wines. Reds include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Syrah (Shiraz in the Southern Hemisphere). Whites include Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gerwürztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.
A wine blended with grapes grown in 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. Also, Sherry and the non-vintage Ports, the tawnies and the rubies.
The character of a wine as determined by the olfactory sense. Also called aroma; includes bouquet.
A style of light, fruity, youthful red wine bottled and sold as soon as possible. Applies mostly to Beaujolais.
Used to describe oxidized wines. Often a flaw, but when it's close to an oaky flavor it can be a plus.
Instead of gaining complexity in expensive oak barrels during the aging process, some popularly-priced wines are aged with small pieces of wood to gain their oaky flavors. Also called beans.
Describes the aroma or taste quality imparted to a wine by the oak barrels or casks in which it was aged. Can be either positive or negative. The terms toasty, vanilla, dill, cedary and smoky indicate the desirable qualities of oak; charred, burnt, green cedar, lumber and plywood describe its unpleasant side. See also American oak, French oak.
Scale used in Germany to measure sugar levels and other solids in grapes or must to determine ripeness and potential alcohol. This scale is based on the density or specific gravity of the must. See also Baumé and Brix.
Indicates a slightly sweet wine in which the residual sugar is barely perceptible, usually 0.6 percent to 1.4 percent.
Also known as powdery mildew, oïdium is a fungal disease that infects areas of green growth on grape vines, particularly Vitis vinifera varieties. Grapes afflicted with the powdery or cobweb-like fungus are generally discarded.
A hybrid berry resulting from the crossing of loganberry and youngberry, all of which are descended from the blackberry.
Some wines come from vines that are 50, 70 or even 100 years of age, which yield small quantities of concentrated fruit, and make a more concentrated and complex wine. Because this is an unregulated term, the wine can come from relatively young vines.
The Old World refers to the countries of Europe where winemaking dates back centuries. The Old World was once associated primarily with traditional winemaking techniques, while the New World was known for modern winemaking, though those stereotypes are no longer as accurate.
A dime-sized patch of nerve endings situated in the retronasal passage that connects the nose to the mouth. As we inhale through the nose or mouth, this little patch captures airborne aromas and flavors as they pass by and transmits the information to the olfactory bulb, which can distinguish the presence of and identify nearly 10,000 unique aromas even at very low concentrations.
Oloroso is the darkest, richest category of dry Sherry. The wines are aged oxidatively, without the flor yeast cap that protects finos and amontillados, and may have alcohol levels up to 20 percent. The wines have a nutty aroma and flavor, and serve as the base for cream Sherry dessert wines.
A machine with an optic sensor that recognizes and removes non-standard grapes based on size, shape and/or color with a puff of air.
White wines made with extended grape skin contact during fermentation or maceration, imparting an orange hue to the finished wine, along with tannins. The practice originated thousands of years ago in the Caucasus, but has more recently regained popularity in Italy's Friuli region and the neighboring Brda district of Slovenia.
The rules and methods for producing organic grapes and wine are still evolving. The answer usually depends on the country of origin and the various governing organizations involved. France, for example, legally defined organic farming in 1981 as "farming which uses no synthetic chemical products." In most cases, organic wines are fermented from grapes grown without the use of synthesized fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. In organic wines, natural yeasts and minimal amounts of sulfur are often used in the fermentation process.
French term for ullage—the volume of air inside a wine bottle or barrel—as well as for the process of topping off a barrel with additional wine to fill the ullage created by evaporation.
Refers to winemaking practices that deliberately expose the wine to oxygen, such as the use of open-top fermentors and racking. Traditional winemaking exposes the wine to some air, but does not result in oxidized notes. An aggressively oxidative approach can result in nutty notes, as seen in wines such as Sherry or vin jaunes from the Jura.
Describes wine that has been exposed too long to air and taken on a brownish color, losing its freshness and perhaps beginning to smell and taste like Sherry or old apples. Oxidized wines are also called maderized or sherrified.
The flavor or taste of a wine; also referred to as different sections of taste in the mouth. As the wine travels through the mouth, it first contacts the front palate, then the midpalate and finally the back palate, all which can process different tastes, such as sweet, sour and bitter.
An Italian term literally translated as "sweet," passito is used in Italy to describe wines that have been made from dried grapes, in the appassimento method. Drying the grapes concentrates the sugars, and the process can be used to make both sweet dessert wines like Recioto as well as dry reds such as Amarone and Sforzato.
The time when a wine tastes its best--very subjective.
Describes the strong, usually sweet and floral aromas found in some wines, particularly white wines.
A French term for lightly sparkling.
A chemical measurement of acidity or alkalinity; the higher the pH the weaker the acid. 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 best for reds.
Tannins, color pigments and flavor compounds originating in the skins, seeds and stems of grapes. Phenolics, which are antioxidants, are more prevalent in red wines than in whites.
Tiny aphids or root lice that attack Vitis vinifera roots. The vineyard pests were widespread in both Europe and California during the late 19th century, and returned to California in the 1980s.
This bacterial disease, frequently spread by insects such as glassy-winged sharpshooters and blue-green sharpshooters, kills vines within a few years of infestation; there are no known preventatives (other than quarantine) and no known cures. It is a problem in California; both grapegrowers and government organizations are working to find solutions to stop the disease from spreading to healthy vineyards.
French term for punch-down.
Another term for a grape seed.
The time during which a wine is at its peak.
Chemical compounds found in plant life. In grapes, polyphenols are responsible for skin pigment, tannins and flavors—all of which fall under the category of flavonoids—as well as resveratrol, the compound associated with many of wine's health benefits, and which falls under the much smaller polyphenol category of non-flavonoids. Pertaining to wine, grape skins, seeds and stems contain the highest concentrations of polyphenols.
Also known as physiological ripeness, is the concentration of polyphenols in grape skins, seeds and stems, in contrast to the traditional form of measuring ripeness based on sugar content (Brix, Baumé, Oechsle). It has become a trend among vintners to rely more on polyphenolic ripeness than on sugar levels in recent years, as polyphenols are the source of wine's color, flavor and mouthfeel. As grapes mature, particularly in warmer climates, sugar levels frequently rise faster than polyphenol concentrations. Leaving grapes on the vine longer to achieve polyphenolic ripeness has led to an increase in alcohol levels due to higher sugar contents, particularly in California.
The mass of grape solids—skins, stems and seeds—remaining after pressing (for whites) and after the wine has been drained from the fermentation vessel (for reds).
German quality classification indicating wines with distinction and including Germany’s best wines. Prädikatswein is divided into five classes of ascending ripeness at harvest: kabinett, spätlese, auslese, beerenauslese (including eiswein) and trockenbeerenauslese. Sugar is never added to these wines. The Prädikatswein classification was formerly known as Qualitätswein mit Prädikat. Austria also uses a prädikatswein classification system; its categories are spätlese, auslese, beerenauslese (including eiswein), strohwein and trockenbeerenauslese.
Refers to a top tier in a cru
system. In Burgundy, it is second to grand cru
After fermentation, the mixture of red grape juice, skins, lees and other solids is pressed to separate the juice from the solids. Because extended skin contact is undesirable for white wines, white grapes are pressed before fermentation.
Press Wine (or Pressing):
The juice extracted under pressure after pressing for white wines and after fermentation for reds. Press wine has more flavor and aroma, deeper color and often more tannins than free-run juice. Wineries often blend a portion of press wine back into the main cuvée for added backbone.
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.
The process of trimming the vine. Determining how many buds to leave on the vine, the grower decides the number of bunches and the maximum quantity of fruit each vine can bear in the coming year.
Having the flavor of overripe, dried-out grapes. Can add complexity in the right dose.
Describes highly tannic and very dry wines.
Also known as remontage, the process of pumping red wine up from the bottom of the tank and splashing it over the top of the fermenting must; the purpose is to submerge the skins so that carbon dioxide is pushed to the surface of the must and released.
Also known as pigéage, the process of breaking up the thick layer of skins, stems and seeds that forms at the surface of fermenting red wine and submerging it during fermentation to extract color, tannins, flavor and aromas from the grape solids.
Having a powerful, assertive smell linked to a high level of volatile acidity.
The dimple or indentation in the bottom of a bottle, originally meant to strengthen hand-blown glass containers; now mostly for show, except in sparkling wine bottles. Bottles for Champagne and sparkling wines, which must withstand extra pressure, have especially deep punts.
Qualitätswein Bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA):
German quality classification meaning "quality wine from designated cultivation areas." Producers may add sugar to these wines when grapes don’t meet the minimum levels of natural ripeness at harvest time. Usually a producer's basic level wine, inexpensive and meant for everyday drinking, though there are some exceptions.
Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP):
Former German quality classification meaning "quality with distinction" and including Germany’s best wines. See Prädikatswein.
Portuguese term for Estate.
An egg-shaped type of amphora from the country of Georgia. See Amphora.
The practice of moving wine from one container to another for aeration or clarification, leaving sediment behind.
A tasting term referring to a style, rather than a smell or taste, generally marked by lively acidity and light juiciness.
Having the taste of raisins from ultra-ripe or overripe grapes. Can be pleasant in small doses in some wines.
Young and undeveloped. A good descriptor of barrel samples of red wine. Raw wines are often tannic and high in alcohol or acidity.
Indicates that the lees have been removed from a sparkling wine just prior to release. After sparkling wine has undergone the second fermentation in the bottle, the wine can remain on the lees for many years to develop additional complexity and richness.
Extremely concentrated Italian wine made from grapes that have been dried or raisined in special drying rooms for a few months after harvest before being crushed. The wine can be dry or slightly sweet.
French term for Harvest. Can also be used as a word for Vintage.
The practice of replacing corks that have become fragile during extended cellaring. Once the old cork is removed, the bottle may be topped up with wine from the same or a similar vintage and a new cork inserted.
Commonly used to describe a wine that has not been exposed to air and has developed stinky aromas due to reductive chemical reactions (as opposed to oxidation). Reduced notes in a wine generally result from the presence of volatile sulfur compounds, or mercaptans; these notes include rotten eggs, rubber, struck matches, sewage and even skunk. These off aromas may dissipate after exposure to air through decanting or swirling the wine in the glass.
Refers to winemaking practices that reduce a wine's exposure to oxygen, such as the use of stainless steel tanks and inert gases to minimize contact with air. This is done to maximize a wine's fresh fruit flavors. However, in some cases it can result in "reduced" aromas, considered a flaw.
A handheld instrument that gauges grapes' ripeness by measuring the ratio of sugar and other solids in the grape juice. Used extensively during harvest by grapegrowers.
Oversized bottle equivalent to 4.5 liters or six regular bottles.
A quality classification in Spain. Red reservas must be aged at least three years, with a minimum of one year in oak.
An unregulated term on U.S. wine labels; sometimes indicates the best wine of the lot, sometimes over-zealous marketing.
Polyphenol found in grape skins and wine as well as in other foods such as peanuts, blueberries and cranberries. It is believed to be the source of wine's health benefits; studies have linked resveratrol with improved heart health and endurance as well as reduced risk of age-related degeneration, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, blindness, cancer, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The retronasal passages are the airways that connect the nose and the mouth. Also home to a dime-sized patch of nerve endings called the olfactory epithelium. As we inhale through our nose or mouth, this little patch captures airborne aromas and flavors as they pass by, helping us identify thousands of unique aromas.
Describes wines with generous, full, pleasant flavors, usually sweet and round in nature. In dry wines, richness may be supplied by high alcohol and glycerin, by complex flavors and by an oaky vanilla character. Decidedly sweet wines are also described as rich when the sweetness is backed up by fruity, ripe flavors.
In making sparkling wine, the process of moving the sediment remaining in the bottle from the second fermentation to rest in the neck of the bottle for easy removal. The process of riddling is part of the méthode traditionelle
and was developed by Madame Clicquot (Veuve Clicquot) in the early 1800s to remove the cloudy lees from the bottles. The bottles are loaded in a horizontal position onto wooden racks called pupitres
. At this point, the sediment rests on the side of the bottle. As the bottles are riddled, or given a sharp quarter-turn daily and gradually tilted upside-down, the sediment works its way to the bottle neck. Today, most producers use efficient mechanical riddlers. Also known as Remuage.
Refers to the wine regions to the immediate east of the Gironde river in Bordeaux. The Right Bank comprises the wine regions of St.-Emilion, Pomerol and other neighboring areas.
Where the wine meets the edge of the glass, useful in describing color variation in a wine.
Italian term for a process in which dried grapes or leftover grapeskins (pomace) are added to a fermented wine for a period of maceration to increase its intensity, flavor, alcohol and color. This method is used to make some wines from Valpolicella, using the leftovers from the area's Recioto or Amarone wines, made from raisinated grapes dried on mats in the appassimento process.
The stage at which the grapes' many components have reached maturity. As a grape ripens, sugar content increases and acidity decreases. Flavor compounds develop and the stems turn from green to brown, indicating that the tannins in the stems, seeds and skins are softening.
Italian term indicating that the wine has been aged for an extra period of time prior to release.
Describes a wine that is full-bodied, intense and vigorous; can be a bit overblown.
Disease-resistant native American grapevine grown specifically to provide a root system on which to graft Vitis vinifera
varieties. Most of the world takes these measures to prevent attacks of phylloxera.
Spanish term for Rosé.
Italian term for Rosé.
Rosés, also known as blush wines, range in color from muted salmon-orange to bright pink. These wines are made from red grapes, colored through limited skin contact or, in rare cases, the addition of small quantities of red wine.
A programmable, mechanized fermenting tank that rotates on an axis to mix the cap and grape must during fermentation to facilitate extraction of color, tannins and flavor.
Describes the drying, gritty or furry mouthfeel associated with higher levels of tannins and coarse tannins.
Describes a texture that is smooth, not coarse or tannic.
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.
A French term meaning literally "to bleed," saignée
refers to the process of bleeding or pulling juice from a tank of red must that is just beginning fermentation. The goal is two-fold. First, the lightly-colored juice that is bled out of the tank produces a rosé. Second, the must remaining in the tank has a higher proportion of grape skins to juice; the resulting wine will be richer and more concentrated.
An oversized bottle holding 9 liters, the equivalent of 12 regular bottles.
A metal twist-off closure for wine bottles; an alternative to cork.
Estate wineries often bottle excess production, lesser wines or purchased wines under a label other than the one that made them famous, often at a lower price.
The process that creates the bubbles in sparkling wine. As the wine is bottled, a small amount of yeast and sugar is added before the bottle is sealed with a sturdy crown cap. The yeasts quickly start fermenting the sugars, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide. Since the gas cannot escape, it dissolves into the wine.
As red wines age, color pigments and tannins bond together and fall out of solution, producing a natural sediment. While the sediment is not harmful, it tastes bitter and adversely affects the wine’s mouthfeel. Sediment is most frequently found in older (10-plus years), darker red wines, which typically have more color pigments and tannins, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux and Port. Rarely will lighter reds throw sediment.
Sélection de Grains Nobles:
Dessert wine classification used primarily in France's Alsace region. Sélection de Grains Nobles is the highest classification level for sweet wines made from botrytized grapes in Alsace.
French term for a vineyard management technique by which dead or under-performing vines are replaced with new vines grown from cuttings from many of the best older vines in the vineyard, maintaining both the vineyard's health and diversity.
For any given aroma, flavor or taste, there is a concentration below which we are no longer able to detect it. This point is called the sensory threshold, and where it occurs varies considerably from person to person, determining our ability to taste and explaining why tasting wine is such a personal, highly subjective experience.
An Italian term meaning "strained," sforzato wines (also know as sfursat) are made in northern Italy's Valtellina region of Lombardy in the appassimento method, similar to Amarone, by laying harvested grapes on straw mats to dry for several months. The drying process concentrates sugars and results in higher alcohol wines. In the Sforzato di Valtellina DOCG, the wines must be a minimum of 90 percent Chiavennasca, the local name for Nebbiolo, and have at least 14 percent alcohol.
Sherry is a fortified wine made in Jerez, Spain, most often from the Palomino grape but also from the Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel varieties. Following fermentation, the wine is fortified with distilled wine spirit, up to the minimum strength of 15.5 percent alcohol. The fortified wine is then usually aged in oak barrels arranged in a solera system of multiple vintages, and which may include more than a hundred vintages of Sherry blended together. Sherries may be classified by their quality, age, sweetness and or alcohol contents into categories which include fino, manzanilla, amontillado, oloroso, cream, etc.
The area where the bottle slopes outwards, just below the narrow, straight neck.
A Spanish quality classification indicating that the wines are not aged in wood, but may be bottle-aged.
A bottling whose grapes hail from one particular vineyard or site. They are often regarded superior to their multi-vineyard counterparts.
Refers to the process of grape skins steeping in juice or fermenting must to impart color and flavor to the wine.
The top category of white wines made in Austria's Wachau valley. Smaragd-designated wines are made from the ripest grapes in the Wachau, and have a minimum alcohol level of 12.5 percent.
Usually the result of fermenting or aging in oak barrel, a smoky quality can add flavor and aromatic complexity to a wine.
Oil-burning heaters used to prevent or reduce frost damage in orchards and vineyards. Typically consisting of a wide base topped by a chimney, smudge pots may be lit when frost threatens. They offer some protection by creating air currents that can disrupt settled colder air at ground level. Due to their consumption of oil and smoke production, as well as labor requirements, use of smudge pots is in decline in favor of other frost-protection methods such as wind machines and aspersion.
Describes wines low in acid or tannin (sometimes both), making for easy drinking. Opposite of hard.
A set of barrels, frequently stacked, each containing multiple vintages of wine or spirits. The solera process, by which a given year's wine production is drawn from the oldest barrels in the solera and a portion of each subsequent vintage is used to top off each older barrel, is common to Sherry, Madeira, brandies and some Ports and whiskies.
In a restaurant, the server responsible for wine. Often this is a manager who buys wine, organizes the wine list, maintains the cellar and recommends wines to customers.
Checking the grape clusters for soundness during harvest. When bins loaded with grapes come in from the vineyard, they may contain overripe grapes, underripe grapes, moldy grapes, leaves and other debris. Many quality-oriented wineries sort through the grape bunches to remove these unwanted items.
French term for racking, or moving wine from one container to another for aeration or clarification, leaving sediment behind.
German classification based on the ripeness level and sugar content of the grapes. Meaning "late harvest," spätlesen are usually richer than kabinette-level wines because the grapes contain a higher concentration of sugar at harvest. The wines can be dry or sweet.
A descriptor for many wines, indicating the presence of spice flavors such as anise, cinnamon, cloves, mint and pepper which are often present in complex wines.
Italian term for sparkling wine.
Wines that have lost their fresh, youthful qualities are called stale. Opposite of fresh.
Smells and tastes of grape stems or has leaf- or hay-like aromas.
Describes a wine with green flavors of unripe fruit or wood, frequently a result of a wine being fermented too long with the grape stems.
Related to the mouthfeel of a wine, provided by acidity, tannin, alcohol, sugar and the way these components are balanced. Wines with low, unbalanced levels of acidity or tannin can be described as "lacking in structure" or "flabby." When the acidity or tannin levels are sufficiently high, a "firm structure" is the result.
Refers to the character, not the quality, of a wine, which is determined in the vineyard and in the winery. Common styles at two ends of a continuum are fresh and fruity at one end and big and oaky at the other end. Style is not strictly correlated with quality; one style is not inherently better than another. Rather, style is a matter of personal preference for both the winemaker and the wine lover.
Describes delicate wines with finesse, or flavors that are understated rather than full-blown and overt. A positive characteristic.
Winemakers all over the world use sulfur dioxide to clean equipment, kill unwanted organisms on the grapes and protect wines from spoilage. A tiny amount remains in the bottle, and U.S. label laws require a statement to announce its presence. Sulfites also occur naturally during fermentation process.
Bordeaux’s 1855 Classification, which established a five-tiered system of Grands Crus Classées, or growths, has remained relatively unchanged. In recent years, the quality of several second-growths has improved to the point that they can now challenge the first-growths in every way but price. These super seconds include Cos-d’Estournel, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Léoville Las Cases, Palmer (actually a third-growth) and Pichon-Longueville-Lalande.
Wines from Tuscany made using international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah rather than relying primarily on local varieties such as Sangiovese. Although their quality can be outstanding, these wines must be labeled with the lower levels of Italy’s classification system, Vino da Tavola or Indicazione Geografica Tipica, since they do not conform to Tuscany’s traditional winemaking practices.
Describes texture, mostly with reds, as it relates to tannin, body and oak. A positive characteristic.
Wines aged sur lie (French for "on the lees") are kept in contact with the dead yeast cells and are not racked or otherwise filtered. This is mainly done for whites, to enrich them. (It is a normal part of fermenting red wine, and so is not noted.) The concept originated in Burgundy, with Chardonnay, but is now popular around the world with numerous white grape varieties. Sur lie aging can be overdone, leading to an off-putting leesy flavor.
Sweet describes the sugar content in a wine, found at higher levels in late-harvest and sweet wines. Not to be confused with fruity wines. Most people begin to perceive sweetness at concentrations of 0.3 to 0.7 percent residual sugar.
Stands for Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. A bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury which oversees, among other things, regulations, taxes, labeling and permits in the alcohol industry.
Still wines containing 7 percent to 14 percent alcohol. The term is also a quality classification in many European Union countries, indicating the lowest level of quality: Vin du Table in France, Vino da Tavola in Italy and Tafelwein in Germany.
German quality classification meaning "table wine," the lowest category recognized in the European Union, indicates only that the wine was bottled in Germany. When the grapes are grown in Germany, the term Deutscher Tafelwein is used. Landwein is a slightly higher quality level within the Tafelwein designation.
Also known as charmat, a less expensive method for making sparkling wine. The tank method is used to produce bulk quantities of inexpensive sparkling wines. The second fermentation takes place in a pressurized tank, rather than in a bottle, decreasing lees contact and producing larger, coarser bubbles. The wine is filtered under pressure and bottled. Wines made this way cannot be labeled méthode Champenoise.
Describes dull, dank qualities that show up in wines aged too long in tanks.
Used to describe a wine high in tannins or with a rough mouthfeel.
The mouth-puckering polyphenols, most prominent in red wines, that are derived primarily from grape skins, seeds and stems, but also from oak barrels. Tannins are an important component of a wine's structure and texture, and act as a natural preservative that help wine age and develop.
Sharp-tasting because of acidity. Occasionally used as a synonym for acidic.
The principal acid in grapes and wine; contributes to taste and stabilizes color. Unlike malic acid, tartaric acid does not decline as grapes ripen. Tartaric acid can precipitate out of solution in bottled wine to form harmless tartrate crystals resembling shards of glass.
Harmless crystals resembling shards of glass that may form during fermentation or bottle aging (often on the cork) as tartaric acid naturally present in wine precipitates out of solution. Components of tartaric acid, including potassium bitartrate and cream of tartar, they are less soluble in alcoholic solutions than in grape juice and solidify at cooler temperatures (such as those found in a refrigerator); can be avoided in finished wines through cold stabilization. Decanting and careful pouring can prevent transferring the crystals from the bottle into the glass.
A shallow saucer still used by some sommeliers and wine merchants to taste wine. Originally used by winemakers and wine merchants in dimly-lit cellars, the shiny, dimpled surfaces were helpful in evaluating appearance since they reflect the small amount of light.
A chemical compound that can give wine a musty, dirty, bitter, chalky character often described as moldy newspapers or damp cardboard. TCA can be formed in many ways; most consumers associate it with "corky" bottles, because corks are particularly susceptible to contamination by the compound. One common catalyst is chlorine, a widespread cleaning agent, coming into contact with plant phenols (which are found in cork and wood) and mold.
Temperature of Fermentation:
As yeasts convert grape sugars into alcohol, they also produce heat. Excessively high temperatures can kill the yeasts and make the wine’s fruit flavors seem stewed or dull, whereas cooler temperatures maintain the freshness of the fruit. Just the right amount of warmth can contribute a richer, rounder mouthfeel.
Italian term for Estate.
A term describing the interaction of soil, climate, topography and grape variety in a specific site, imprinting the wine and making each wine from a specific site distinct. Derived from the French word for earth, "terre."
Tête de cuvée:
In Champagne, this refers to the top of the range of a specific house or grower's wines. Notable examples: Louis Roederer's Cristal and Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon.
Lacking body and depth.
Describes a wine's structure, concentration and body, as in a "tightly wound" wine. Closed or compact are similar terms.
See Liqueur de Tirage.
Describes wines that are limp, feeble or lackluster.
As a barrel is being constructed, but before the heads at either end are added, the cooper (barrel maker) chars the inside edges of the staves. This final treatment imparts aromas of vanilla, spice and smoke to the wood and then the wine. Char levels include light, medium and heavy toast. Winemakers order barrels with their favorite levels of toast to influence their wine styles.
Describes a flavor derived from the oak barrels in which wines are aged. Also, a character that sometimes develops in sparkling wines.
Wines exhibiting torréfaction show a roasted aroma or flavor, not unlike roasted coffee beans. Torréfaction is literally the process by which coffee, cocoa and other beans are roasted.
Technique for making sparkling wine in which, after the second fermentation in the bottle and a short period of sur lie aging (but before riddling), the wine is transferred—with sediment—to a pressurized tank. The wine is then filtered under pressure and bottled. With the enormous savings in labor and time, the wines are slightly less intense and less creamy than those produced using the more time-consuming and expensive méthode Champenoise.
The process of tying up the annual green growth of vines on wires; a vine naturally wants to sprawl, but trellising organizes the new shoots, to expose more leaves and grape bunches to the sun and encourage air circulation to prevent rot.
French term for sorting and harvesting the best botrytized grapes for dessert wines. In Sauternes, Barsac and other regions where sweet dessert wines are made, pickers will often make multiple tries, or passes, through the vineyard, harvesting only grapes that have been properly afflicted with the sugar-concentrating fungus Botrytis cinerea, or noble rot.
German term for dry, describing a wine with little or no residual sugar.
German classification based on the ripeness level and sugar content of the grapes. Trockenbeerenauslese means literally "dry berry selection." This very sweet dessert wine is made from individually selected shriveled grapes that have the highest sugar levels with flavors concentrated further by the fungus Botrytis cinerea, or noble rot. Trockenbeerenauslesen rank among the greatest sweet wines in the world.
Refers to the small air space in a wine bottle or barrel. Excessive air in the bottle increases the speed of oxidation.
Although there is no direct English translation, umami is essentially the fifth taste. Discovered and noted by Chinese gourmets more than 1,200 years ago, the concept is fairly new to western scientists and gourmets alike. Mushrooms, consommés, long-cooked meats, cured meats, shrimp, dried tomatoes and soy sauce all contain umami. This taste tends to bring out tannins or the oaky character in wines.
Refers to a wine labeled with a single grape variety. Used predominantly in the United States and Australia, the term "varietal" denotes a wine named after and made from a single grape variety. For example, "The popular varietal is served in many restaurants" and "The herbal aromas of this Sauvignon Blanc are varietally correct." For varietal bottling, a minimum of 75 percent of that wine must be made from the designated grape variety. The term is frequently misused in reference to a grape variety itself.
A variety refers to the grape itself, whereas the term varietal refers to the wine made from that grape variety. For example, "Chardonnay is an early-ripening variety."
Some wines contain elements in their smell and taste which are reminiscent of plants and vegetables. In Cabernet Sauvignon a small amount of this vegetal quality is said to be part of 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.
Having rich flavor and a silky, sumptuous texture.
Dessert wine classification used primarily in France's Alsace region. Vendange Tardives, or "late harvest," sweet wines are made from grapes left to dehydrate on the vine before harvest; the category indicates a level of sweetness below that of Sélection de Grains Nobles.
Spanish term for Harvest. Can also be used as a word for Vintage.
Occurs in late summer or early fall, when grapes start to lose their green color and take on mature hues, which can range from greenish yellow to red to almost black, depending on the variety.
A tasting spanning multiple vintages of a single category of wine, usually a specific cuvée from one producer.
French term for grapegrower or winemaker.
Vin de garde:
"Garde" is from the French "to keep." Vin de garde refers to a wine that is meant for aging.
Vin de Pays:
French quality classification meaning "country wine"; it is one level above vin de table.
Vin de Table:
France's lowest level of wine classification, meaning "table wine." There are no limits on vineyard yields for wines labeled vin de table, and they do not require a vintage date.
The distance between vines in a vineyard; can vary from about three feet to eight feet. Generally, tighter spacing increases the competition between vines, producing fewer, more flavorful grapes.
The process of shaping the vine’s permanent wood. In cool regions, vines trained low absorb more heat reflected off the ground, which helps ripen the fruit. In warmer regions, vines are trained higher so they don’t absorb reflections.
The science or study of grape production for wine and the making of wine.
Loosely synonymous with "winemaking," the act of creating wine from grapes, beginning with the crushing of grapes at harvest and ending when the fermented juice is barreled.
The act of Vinification, or creating wine from grapes.
Vino da Tavola:
Italy’s quality category equivalent to table wine; mass quantities of ordinary wines are produced at this level. Some of the country’s most expensive wines made outside the DOC/DOCG regulations are sold at this level, such as super Tuscans.
Vino de la Mesa:
Spain’s quality category equivalent to table wine; mass quantities of ordinary wines are produced at this level. As in Italy, some of the country’s most expensive wines made outside the DO/DOCa regulations are sold at this level.
Vino de la Tierra:
One of Spain’s quality categories; wines produced in a specific region; an average level of quality.
Vino de Pago:
The highest classification of wine in Spain, requiring that wines be made entirely from estate-grown grapes in addition to the requirements of the Denominatión de Origen Calificada (D.O.Ca.) classification.
One of Spain’s quality categories; green or young wine meant to be drunk as soon as it is bottled.
Literally means "winelike" and is usually applied to dull wines lacking in distinct varietal character.
Indicates the year in which the grapes were grown. For vintage dated wines made in the United States, 95 percent of a wine must come from grapes that were grown and picked in the stated calendar year. In the southern hemisphere where the grapes may grow in the year preceeding a February through March harvest, the vintage date refers to the year of harvest. Also refers to the time of year in which the harvest takes place.
Largely meaningless phrase that means the winery purchased the wine in bulk from another winery and bottled it.
Translates as wine merchant, but generally indicates a wine producer/or winery proprietor.
Means wine from a winery-owned vineyard situated outside the winery's delimited viticultural area.
Describes full-bodied, thick, rich wines.
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. Just for one example, in the United States, a wine must be 85 percent from grapes grown within the viticultural area to carry the appellation name.
The cultivation, science and study of grapes.
A hardy grape native to North America, hybrids of Vitis aestivalis are sometimes used for winemaking, the most prominent of which is the Norton grape.
The species of grape native to the eastern U.S. that includes the Concord and Catawba varieties.
A hardy grape native to North America, Vitis Riparia is one of the phylloxera-resistant rootstocks used with Vitis Vinifera grape varieties.
Classic European winemaking species of grape. Examples include Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and most of the famous varieties grown around the world.
Volatile (Volatile Acidity; VA) :
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.
Tight-grained French oak from the Vosges Mountains in Alsace used to make wine barrels.
Temperature, precipitation and sunshine hours associated with specific events such as a hailstorm. In contrast, climate refers to long-term patterns.
This can refer to whole cluster pressing and/or whole cluster fermentation, where pressing and/or fermentation happen without the stems having been removed from the berries.
Largely synonymous with "Vinification," winemaking is the process by which harvested grapes are crushed, fermented (and otherwise manipulated through yeast inoculations, temperature control, punch-downs, pump-overs, racking, oak-chip additions, filtering, etc.), aged in barrel, steel tank or other vessel, and finally bottled.
Micro-organisms that convert sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide in the process known as fermentation. The predominant wine yeast, saccharomyces cerevisiae, is the same micro-organism that ferments beer and makes bread dough rise.
The quantity of grapes or wine produced measured in tons per acre or hectoliters per hectare. Although it is true that overcropped vines with high yields produce less-concentrated grapes, it is not true that lower yields always mean higher quality. Different soils, vineyards and varieties are able to successfully carry different levels of crop.