glossary

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Oak Chips: 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.

Oaky: 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.

Oechsle: 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.

Off-Dry: Indicates a slightly sweet wine in which the residual sugar is barely perceptible, usually 0.6 percent to 1.4 percent.

Oïdium: 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.

Olallieberry: A hybrid berry resulting from the crossing of loganberry and youngberry, all of which are descended from the blackberry.

Old Vine: 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.

Old World: 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.

Olfactory Epithelium: 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: 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.

Orange wines: 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.

Organic Wine: 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.

Ouillage: 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.

Oxidative: 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.

Oxidized: 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.

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