Wine dictionary

A

 Accessible - Easy to drink wine, without the overwhelming sense of tannin, acidity, or extract.

Acetic - A vinegary taste in wine, which was exposed to long to air.

Acetic Acid - The acid component of vinegar present in small quantities in all wines.

Acidity – Essential element in grapes and finished wines. It gives character and structure and helps the wine to age. 

Acidification – Adding ACIDITY during winemaking to compensate for grapes that have over-ripened.

Aerate - Adding oxygen to wine during the winemaking process or while decanting a wine. (the wine opens up)

Aftertaste - Taste left in the mouth after swallowing. It is a synonym or length or finishes.

Aging - Keeping the wine for a certain period of time in barrels, tanks, or bottles to affect the finished wine. 

Alcohol – Ethanol - Is produced as a by-product of fermentation. 

Allocation - Rationing in-demand wines and controlling the place where they are sold. Usually high in-demand wines.

AOC - "Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée" - French term for denominated, governed wine region.

Appellation contrôlée - AC - Term for French wines from designated regions of which some standards are demanded. DO (Denominación de Origen) - Spanish; DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) - Italian.

Appellation - An official geographic origin of a wine. It becomes part of a wine's official name.

Aroma - The varietal smell of a wine.  

Aromatic - Description of wines that have particularly fruity and floral smells.

AVA - Term in the USA for officially designated winegrape growing region. 

 

B

Balance – A tasting term, when all components (acid, tannins, alcohol, fruit, and flavor) fit together. 

Barrique - Name for a barrel, standard Bordeaux barrel, holding 225 liters. 

Batonnage – French term for stirring of the LEES.

Bianco - Italian for white. 

Bin - A location in a cellar where a particular wine is stored. Can be used as part of a brand name. 

Biodynamic wine - Wine made according to biodynamic principles. Vines are taken care of in according to the movements of the planets and the moon.

Blanc - French for white. 

Blanc de Blanc - French for wine made only from white grapes. 

Blanc de Noirs - French for wine made only from black (red) grapes. 

Blanco - Spanish for white. 

Blind tasting - Wine tasting, where the labels and shapes of the bottles are hidden from the tasters. 

Body – Tasting term for the weight and texture of a wine. A combination of ALCOHOL, EXTRACT, and glycerol.

Bodega - Spanish for a winery. 

Body - The weight and structure of a wine. 

Botrytis cinerea – A fungus that attacks the grape berry. Often it destroys grapes, but in a few places conditions allow it to develop as “Noble Rot”. Botrytis draws the water content from the grape and leaves concentrated sugar juice that makes luscious sweet wine.

Bouquet - The whole smell, which includes scents from the barrels or from the style of winemaking.B

Brettanomyces – Fault in wine caused by a rouge strain of YEAST. 

Bush vine - Vines as free-standing plants, not needing the support of a trellis. 

Butt - Traditional barrel used in Sherry production, holding about 600 liters. 

 

C

Cantina - Italian for winery or cellar. 

Cap – The bubbling mass of skins and pips that floats to the surface during fermentation of red wine. It must be submerged regularly.

Carafe - Simple decanter without a stopper. 

Carbon dioxide – A by-product of fermentation.

Carbonic Maceration - A special fermentation technique where whole berries are starved of oxygen so fermentation begins within the grape. Common in Beaujolais, it makes soft, fruity wines not made for keeping.

Cask - Wooden barrel, usually made of oak. Used for fermentation, maturation, and storage of wines. 

Cellar book - Very useful book for keeping track of the wines bought. 

Chaptalization – Adding sugar to under-ripe juice before fermentation so that more alcohol could be produced.

Château - French term for a wine-growing property (Used in Bordeaux). 

Clos - Historically, a walled vineyard (the walls may no longer exist). 

Cold Stabilisation – A process in which white wine is chilled to precipitate tartaric acid as small crystals which can then be removed before bottling.

Colheita - Portuguese term for vintage. Also, the term is used for single-vintage ports.  

Commune - A small wine-growing region, usually surrounding one village. 

Corked wine –  A moldy cork (of faulty processing of the cork) has caused a chemical called trichloranisole to form, imparting a dirty aroma and flavor to the wine.

Côte - French for a hillside of a vineyard.

Cru - French for growth or vineyard. 

Cuvée - French for blended or specially selected wine. 

 

D

Decanter - Glass container with a stopper. Red wines and sometimes ports are decanted so the sediment will be removed. 

Demi-sec - French for a semi-sweet wine.  

Disgorgement - Removal of the sediment from a bottle in traditional method sparkling wine production. 

Dolce - Italian for sweet.

Domaine - French for property or wine estate. 

Dosage – French term for the small amount of top-up liquid added to champagne just before bottling, sweetened to the desired level.

Doux - French for sweet. 

Dulce - Spanish for sweet. 

 

E

Eiswein – German term. Grapes are left on the vine until they freeze. Temperatures of -7C are required. The water content is removed as ice, and the resulting wine is sweet, concentrated, and luscious wine.

En Primeur – French term for buying wine as futures: paying for wine before it is released onto the market in order to secure wines that are short in supply, or at an advantageous price. 

Estate - A producer who makes wine from grapes grown on their property only. 

Extract – The substances, mostly derived from grape skins and just under the skin's surface, that contribute tannin, color, glycerol, and flavor to a wine. 

F

Fermentation - Transforming the grape juice into wine. Yeast (natural or added) converts sugars into alcohol.

Finish – Synonymous with length, the amount of time a flavor lingers on the PALATE after the wine is swallowed. 

Filtration – A processed used to clarify wine. Used very little or not at all. 

Fining – Another clarifying process where some gelatinous agent (whisked egg whites) is added to the barrel and sinks through the wine trapping even minute solids.

Flor – Protective YEAST that is encouraged to grow on certain maturing wines, particularly SHERRY. Stops OXIDISATION and adds flavor.

Flying winemaker – Globetrotting winemaker/consultant who has no set winery but operates in many, usually employing the latest technology and practices.

Forward – Tasting term indicating a young wine that is maturing quickly or is made to be drunk young.

Fortified wine - Wine with added alcohol for 1. stop the fermentation before all sugars are turned into alcohol or 2. to strengthen it. 

Free-run Juice – The high-quality juice that runs from the FERMENTATION tank without pressing.

Frizzante - Italian for semi-sparkling wine. 

 

Grand Cru - French term used rot top-quality wines in Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne. 

 

H

Fermentation - German for medium-dry wine. 

Horizontal tasting - Wine tasting of several different wines from the same vintage. 

Hybrid – Any wine crossing where one or both parents is not from the wine vine, Vitis vinifera.

 

I

 

J

Jahrgang - German expression for vintage. 

 

K

Keller - German expression for cellar (wine cellar). 

 

L

Late harvest  - Designation appearing on bottles (French – Vendange Tardive) where grapes are allowed to hang on the vine beyond maturity. Over-ripens grapes usually produce wines that are high in alcohol and off-dry to sweet.

Laying down – Long-term storage of wine in the belief that it will improve with age. 

Lees – The solids left behind after fermentation is complete. Dead yeast cells. 

Lees stirring - A process of mixing the lees with the wine, usually in a cask, to help extract components that will give the wine extra flavor and body. 

Length - Finish

 

M

Maceration - Period of time when the skins are in contact with the juice or wine during red wine vinification. 

Maderized – A fault where the wines have oxidized and over-heated giving it a brown color and burnt stale taste. 

Malolactic fermentation – A secondary fermentation that is biological, in which harsh malic acid is converted into softer lactic acid.

Merchant - A company that buys grapes or finished wine for vinification, maturation and blending before the sale. / A wine dealer.

Meritage - Term for Californian wines blended from the classic red grape varieties of Bordeaux. 

Methode champenoise – The traditional and best way of making sparkling wine. 

Méthode traditionelle - Method of production for sparkling wines, including the second fermentation in the bottle. The production method of Champagne and top-quality sparkling wines. (South African sparkling, Cava.)

Micro-climate - The climate within the canopy of the vine. 

Millésime - Vintage date. 

Moelleux - French for sweet. 

MOG - Matter other than grapes. 

Monopole - A vineyard, especially in Burgundy, that has only one owner.

Mousseux - French for sparkling.  

Must - Unfermented grape juice, destined to become wine. 

 

N

Négociant - French for wine merchant/ shipper/ grower who buys wines or grapes in bulk from several sources. Then he bottles the wine himself.

Non-vintage - Blend of wine from two or more different vintages. Done very often for Champagne and Port wine.  

Nose – Tasting term or what we smell in wine. 

 

O

Oak - The wood where wine is aged or fermented. 

Oenology – The science of winemaking. Enology in the USA.

Oenologist - The professional in wine. 

Oidium - Fungus which shrivels grapes and turns them grey in a bad way. 

Orange wine - A white wine fermented in contact with the grape skins. It has a deep color.

Over-extracted - Some wines can be over-extracted which causes the wine inky and bitter.

Oxidation/oxidized – Grapes and grape juice oxidize if not handled carefully. Bottled wine also oxidize if the seal is not airtight.

 

P

Palate – Tasting term. The palate confirms flavors detected on the nose, but adds body, acidity, tannins, finish.

Perlant - French for a wine with the smallest sparkles in it. 

Perlwein - German for low-quality semi-sparkling wine. Lightly sparkling. 

Phenolics – Compounds found in wine, mostly coming from grape skins, like tannin and flavor compounds. 

Phylloxera – The louse that eats vine roots. An insect-like that attacks the roots of vines with disastrous results.

Primary aromas - Aromas in a wine that arise directly from the fruit. 

Punt - The indentation at the bottom of a bottle, for catching any sediment and to strengthen the bottle. 

Pupitre - Rack consisting of two hinged boards through which holes have been bored to hold the necks of sparkling wine bottles during riddling. 

 

Q

Quinta – Portuguese term for an estate or vine farm.

Quinta Single - port comes from a single vintage and farm.

 

R

Racking - Drawing off clear wine from a cask or vat and moving it to another, leaving the sediment behind. 

Recioto – Italian wine made for grapes that have been dried on mats after harvest. The raisins the grapes making them very sweet. Amarone is made from Recioto grapes but fermented out fully to be dry and concentrated.

Remuage – French term for the process by which the dead yeast cells in maturing Champagne and other quality sparkling wines are gradually moved into the neck of the bottle before being removed. Traditionally done by hand, now by machines. 

Residual sugar (RS) – The amount of sugar remaining in a wine that has not been converted into alcohol when fermentation stops. Less than 2g/l is imperceptible. Some sweet wines will have upwards of 25g/l.

Récoltant - Someone who harvests their own grapes. 

Riddling - Moving the sediment to the neck of the bottle before disgorgement in traditional method sparkling wine production. 

Rosso - Italian for red. 

Rouge - French for red. 

 

S

Secco - Italian for a dry wine. 

Seco - Spanish/Portuguese for a dry wine. 

Secondary aromas - Aromas in a wine that arise from the fermentation. 

Sediment - The deposit that forms at the bottom of the bottle, after the wine has spent a long time in the bottle. 

Sekt - German for a sparkling wine. 

Site climate - The climate of a plot of vines, perhaps a vineyard, or part of a vineyard.

Sommelier - Wine waiter.

Solera – A system of fractional blending that gives Sherry its character. The process of blending several vintages over many years in a building known as a Solera before bottling.

Sparkling wine - Any other fizzy/sparkling wine that is not Champagne. 

Spittoon - A "bowl" into which wine is spat out at a wine tasting.

Spritzer - A drink made from white wine and soda or sparkling mineral water, served with ice.

Spumante - Italian for sparkling wine. 

Structure – Tasting term. To describe a wine as well-structured is very complimentary. It means it has an architecture of fruit, acidity, alcohol, and tannins, that should allow it to age and stop it from being bland of wishy-washy.

Sulfur dioxide – An important and age-old additive in winemaking. Sulfur is an antiseptic and antioxidant. I

Super-Tuscans – Groundbreaking Italian wines that deliberately ignored local wine laws to make premium wines using outlawed international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Supérieur - It indicates a higher degree of alcohol. 

Sur-Lie - White wines matured in contact with the lees (French Sur Lie) can develop creamy, nutty flavors.

Sur pointe - Ageing of a bottle of sparkling wine, neck down, after yeast autolysis is complete, but before disgorgement.

 

T

Tannin – A naturally occurring chemical that helps to preserve red wine and adds a savory edge to the flavor. Tannins come from grape stems, pips, and skins. Tannin also comes from oak aging of wine. 

TCA - Short for trichloroanisole, it causes cork taint. 

Terroir - A sense of place expressed in a wine, which may include the effects of climate, site climate, soils, aspect, slope, and even local grape varieties, yeast cultures, and winemaking practices. 

Tertiary aromas - Aromas in a wine that are due to the effects of aging. 

Tinto - Spanish/Portuguese for red.

Trocken - German term for a dry wine. 

 

U

Ullage - The gap between the surface of the wine and the top of the bottle. It increases as a wine age. 

Unfiltered wine – A wine that has been bottled without filtration. Used for quality wines. 

 

V

Varietal labeling - The practice of naming the grape or grapes on the label still uncommon in classical European regions, adopted widely elsewhere over the past 20 years.

Vendange tardive - French term for a late harvest. 

Vertical tasting - Wine tasting of several wines from the same winery but from different vintages.

Vieilles Vignes - Old Vines. Old vines give lower yields of generally higher quality grapes. 

Vitis vinifera – The wine vine. Almost important wines come from her.

Vin de Pays - French term for country wine on a higher level than table wine. 

Vin de table - French term for table wine. (lowest quality)

Vinification - Term for winemaking.

Viniculture - Term for grape growing.

Vintage - Term for a wine from a single year.

Vino da tavola - Italian term for table wine. 

Vino de mesa - Spanish term for table wine

Volatile acidity VA – Tasting term. Real fault, ranging from a vaguely sharp smell to a horrible vinegar aroma and taste. Caused by a bacterial infection, especially of acetobacter (acetic acid).

 

W

 

X

 

Y

Yeast – Is a single-cell organism that is naturally present on the surface of grapes. But in commercial winemaking is more likely to be laboratory-grown. It devours grape sugar, converting it into ethanol – alcohol.

Yeast autolysis - Breakdown of dead yeast cells after the secondary fermentation in sparkling wine production. Gives the wine a yeasty, or biscuity, nose. 

Yield - The amount of wine or grapes produced per unit of vineyard area. 

 

Z

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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