glossary

You can browse our topics using the letters below, or search for a term.

Letter F:

Fading: Describes a wine that is losing color, fruit or flavor, usually as a result of age.

Fat: 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.

Feinherb: 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.

Feminine: 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.

Fermentation: The process by which yeast converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide; turns grape juice into wine.

Field Blend: 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.

Fighting Varietal: 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.

Fill Level: 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.

Filtering: 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.

Fining: 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.

Finish: 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: 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.

Flabby: Describes a wine that is unbalanced due to insufficient acidity, lacking backbone.

Flat: 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.

Fleshy: 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.

Flight: 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.

Flinty: A descriptor for extremely dry white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, whose bouquet can be reminiscent of flint struck against steel.

Flor: 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.

Flowering: 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.

Fortified: Denotes a wine whose alcohol content has been increased by the addition of brandy or neutral spirits.

Foudre: 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.

Foxy: A term used to describe the unique musky and grapey character of many native American labrusca grape varieties.

Free-Run Juice: 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.

French Oak: 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.

French Paradox: 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.

Fresh: Having a lively, clean and fruity character. An essential for young wines.

Frizzante: 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.

Frost: 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.

Fruit Set: In late spring or early summer, fertilized flowers swell into tiny bunches of grapes.

Fruity: Having the aroma and taste of fruit or fruits.

Full-Bodied: A rich, extracted wine with a mouthfilling sensation of weight or mass.

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