glossary

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Letter R:

Racking: The practice of moving wine from one container to another for aeration or clarification, leaving sediment behind.

Racy: A tasting term referring to a style, rather than a smell or taste, generally marked by lively acidity and light juiciness.

Raisiny: Having the taste of raisins from ultra-ripe or overripe grapes. Can be pleasant in small doses in some wines.

Raw: Young and undeveloped. A good descriptor of barrel samples of red wine. Raw wines are often tannic and high in alcohol or acidity.

Recently Disgorged: 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.

Recioto: 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.

Recorking: 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.

Reduced: 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.

Reductive: 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.

Refractometer: 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.

Rehoboam: Oversized bottle equivalent to 4.5 liters or six regular bottles.

Remontage : French term for pump-over.

Reserva: A quality classification in Spain. Red reservas must be aged at least three years, with a minimum of one year in oak.

Reserve: An unregulated term on U.S. wine labels; sometimes indicates the best wine of the lot, sometimes over-zealous marketing.

Residual Sugar: Unfermented grape sugar in a finished wine.

Resveratrol: 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.

Retronasal Passages: 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.

Rich: 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.

Riddling: In making sparkling wine, the process of moving the sediment remaining in the bottle from the second fermentation to rest on the cap for easy removal. The process of riddling is unique to 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.

Rim : Where the wine meets the edge of the glass, useful in describing color variation in a wine.

Ripasso: 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.

Ripe: 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.

Riserva: Italian term indicating that the wine has been aged for an extra period of time prior to release.

Robust: Describes a wine that is full-bodied, intense and vigorous; can be a bit overblown.

Rootstock: 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.

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.

Rough: Describes the drying, gritty or furry mouthfeel associated with higher levels of tannins and coarse tannins.

Round: Describes a texture that is smooth, not coarse or tannic.

Rustic: 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.

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