General Wine Terms

A

Acidity

The quality of wine that gives it its crispiness and vitality.  A proper balance of acidity must be struck with the other elements of a wine, or else the wine may be said to be too sharp - having disproportionately high levels of acidity - or too flat - having disproportionately low levels of acidity.

Aftertaste

The taste left on the palate after wine has been swallowed.

Aging barrel

A barrel used to age wine or distilled spirits.

Alternative wine closures

Various substitutes used in the wine industry for sealing wine bottles in place of traditional cork closures.

A.O.C.

Abbreviation for Appellation d'Origine Contrle, the government agency that controls wine production in France.

A.P. number

Abbreviation for Amtliche Prfnummer, the official testing number displayed on a German wine label that shows that the wine was tasted and passed government quality control standards.

Appellation

A geographical based term to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown.

Aroma

The smell of a wine. The term is generally applied to younger wines, while the term Bouquet is reserved for more aged wines.

Astringency

An element found mainly in red wine, characterized by a mouth-drying sensation attributable to tannin level.

B

Balance

The harmonious relationship of the components of wine - acids, fruit, tannins, alcohol, etc. - resulting in a well proportioned, or well balanced, wine.

Barrel

A hollow cylindrical container, traditionally made of wood staves, used for fermenting and aging wine. Sometimes called a cask.

Barrique

The French name for a 225 litre Bordeaux style barrel.

Baum

A measure of the sugar concentration in the juice or wine.

Beeswing

A light sediment, chiefly mucilage, found in Port.

Blanc de Blancs

A white wine made from white grapes.

Blanc de Noirs

A white wine made from red grapes.

Blending

The mixing of two or more different parcels of wine together by winemakers to produce a consistent finished wine that is ready for bottling.  Laws generally dictate what wines can be blended together, and what is subsequently printed on the wine label.

Blind tasting

Tasting and evaluating wine without knowing what it is.

Bodega

A Spanish wine cellar.  Also refers to a seller of alcoholic beverage.

Body

The sense of weight imparted by a wine to the mouth of a taster.  A wine may be light-bodied, medium-bodied or full-bodied.

Botrytis cinerea

See Noble rot.

Bottle shock

Also known as bottle-sickness, a temporary condition of wine characterized by muted or disjointed fruit flavors. It often occurs immediately after bottling or when wines (usually fragile wines) are shaken in travel.  After several days the condition usually disappears.

Bottle variation

The degree to which bottled wine of the same style and vintage can vary.

Bouquet

A tasting term for the complex aromas of an aged wine.  The term is generally not applied to young wines.

Box wine

Wine packaged in a bag usually made of flexible plastic and protected by a box, usually made of cardboard.  The wine is accessed by a simple plastic tap.

Brettanomyces

A wine spoilage yeast that produces taints in wine commonly described as barnyard or band-aids.

Bright

Describes a wine that has high clarity, very low levels of suspended solids.

Brix

A measurement of the dissolved sucrose level in a wine.

Brut

A French term for a very dry champagne or sparkling wine.  Drier than extra dry.

Bung

A stopper used to seal a bottle or barrel.  Commonly used term for corks.

Butt

An old English unit of wine casks, equivalent to about 477 litres (126 US gallons/105 imperial gallons).

 C

California cult wines

Certain California wines for which consumers and others pay higher prices than those of Bordeaux's First Growths (Premiers Crus).

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is a variety of red grape mainly used for wine production, and is, along with Chardonnay, one of the most widely-planted of the world's noble grape varieties.

Capsule

The plastic or foil that covers the cork and part of the neck of a wine bottle.

Carbonic maceration

A winemaking practice of fermenting whole grapes that have not been crushed.

Champagne flute

A piece of stemware having a long stem with a tall, narrow bowl on top.

Chaptalization

A winemaking process where sugar is added to the must to increase the alcohol content in the fermented wine. This is often done when grapes have not ripened adequately.

Chardonnay

A type of wine, one of the "noble" white varietals.

Charmat process

The Charmat or bulk process is a method where sparkling wines receive their secondary fermentation in large tanks, rather than individual bottles as seen in Mthode champenoise.

Chteau

Generally a winery in Bordeaux, although the term is sometimes used for wineries in other parts of the world, such as the Barossa Valley.

Claret

British name for Bordeaux wine.  Also a semi-generic term for a red wine in similar style to that of Bordeaux.

Clarification

A winemaking process involving the fining and filtration of wine to remove suspended solids and reduce turbidity.

Cold Duck

A mixture of red and white sparkling wine that has a high sugar content.

Cold stabilization

A winemaking process where wine is chilled to near freezing temperatures for several weeks to encourage the precipitation of tartrate crystals.

Corked

A tasting term for a wine that has cork taint.

Corkscrew

A tool, comprising a pointed metallic helix attached to a handle, for drawing corks from bottles.

Cork taint

A type of wine fault describing undesirable aromas and flavours in wine often attributed to mold growth on chlorine bleached corks.

Crackling

Semi-sparkling wine; slightly effervescent.  Also called frizzante.

Crmant

French sparkling wine not made in Champagne region.

Crust

Sediment, generally potassium bitartrate, that adheres to the inside of a wine bottle.

Cult wines

Wines for which committed buyers will pay large sums of money because of their desirability and rarity.

Cuve

A large vat used for fermentation.

Cuvee

The pressing or a blending of several wines.

 D

Decanting

The process of pouring wine from its bottle into a decanter to airate it or separate the sediment from the wine.

Dgorgement

The disgorging or removal of sediment from bottles that results from secondary fermentation.

Demi-sec

Moderately sweet to medium sweet sparkling wines.

Devatting

The process of separating red must from pomace, which can happen before or after fermentation.

Dessert wine

Very sweet, (usually) low alcohol wines.

DO

1.      The abbreviation for Denominacin de Origen, or "place name."  This is Spain's designation for wines whose name, origin of grapes, grape varieties and other important factors are regulated by law.

2.     
2. The abbreviation for dissolved oxygen, the degree of oxygen saturation in a wine, which strongly affects oxidation of the wine and its ageing properties.

DOC

The abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, or "controlled place name."  This is Italy's designation for wine whose name, origin of grapes, grape varieties and other important factors are regulated by law.  It is also the abbreviation for Portugal's highest wine category, which has the same meaning in that country.

DOCG

The abbreviation for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, or controlled and guaranteed place name, which is the category for the highest-ranking wine in Italy.

Doux

The French word for sweet.  Usually refers to the sweetest category of sparkling wines.

Drawing off

see Devatting.

Drip dickey

A wine accessory that slips over the neck of a wine bottle and absorbs any drips that may run down the bottle after pouring - preventing stains to table cloths, counter tops or other surfaces.

Dry

Wines with zero or very low levels of residual sugar.  The opposite of sweet.  (Also see Extra Dry)

 E

Eiswein

German for ice wine, a dessert wine made from frozen grapes.

Enology

American English spelling of oenology, the study of wine.

Extra dry

A champagne or sparkling wine with a small amount of residual sugar (slightly sweet).  Not as dry as Brut.

 F

Farm winery

A United States winery license allowing farms to produce and sell wine on-site.

Fault

An unpleasant characateristic of wine resulting from a flaw with the winemaking process or storage conditions.

Fermentation

The conversion of grape sugars to alcohol by yeast.

Fighting varietal

A term that originated in California during the mid 1980s to refer to any inexpensive cork-finished varietal wine in a 1.5 liter bottle.

Fining

A clarification process where flocculants, such as bentonite or egg white, are added to the wine to remove suspended solids.

Finish

A tasting term for the lingering aftertaste after a wine has been swallowed.

Flabby

Tasting term used to indicate a wine lacking in structure, often marked by low acidity.

Flagon

A glass bottle that holds two litres of (usually inexpensive) table wine.

Flor

The yeast responsible for the character of dry Sherries.

Fortified wine

Wine to which alcohol has been added, generally to increase the concentration to a high enough level to prevent fermentation.

Foxy

A tasting term for the musty odor and flavor of wines made from Vitis labrusca grapes native to North America.

Free run

Juice obtained from grapes that have not been pressed.

Frizzante

See "crackling".

 G

Globalization of wine

Refers to the increasingly international nature of the wine industry, including vineyard management practices, winemaking techniques, wine styles, and wine marketing.

Grape juice

The free-run or pressed juice from grapes. Unfermented grape juice is known as "must."

Grenache

A red wine grape of the Rhone Valley of France, and elsewhere (especially Spain).  In the southern Rhone Grenache replaces Syrah as the most important grape (Syrah being more important in the north).

Green harvest

The harvesting of green (unripe) grapes in an attempt to increase the yield of quality grapes.

 H

Hard

A tasting term for a wine that containins too much tannin and is therefore unpleasant.  Hard wines often take a long time to mature.

Hectare

A metric measure that equals 10,000 m (2.471 acres).

Hock

Term for Rhine wines, usually used in England.

Hogshead

A wine barrel that holds approximately 239 litres (63 gallons).

 I

Ice wine

Wine made from frozen grapes.  Called eiswein in German.

IGT

Abbreviation for "Indicazione Geografica Tipica", the lowest-ranking of the three categories of Italian wine regulated by Italian law.

 J

Jeroboam

A large bottle holding three litres, the equivalent of four regular wine bottles.

Jug wine

American term for inexpensive table wine.

 K

Kosher wine

Wine that is produced under the supervision of a rabbi so as to be ritually pure or clean.  Although commonly sweet, it need not be so.

 L

Late harvest wine

Also known as late picked, wine made from grapes that have been left on the vine longer than usual.  Usually an indicator for a very sweet or dessert wine.

Lees

Wine sediment that occurs during and after fermentation, and consists of dead yeast, grape seeds, and other solids. 

Legs

The tracks of liquid that cling to the sides of a glass after the contents have been swirled. Often said to be related to the alcohol or glycerol content of a wine.  Also called tears.

Lightstruck

A tasting term for a wine that has had long exposure to Ultraviolet light causing "wet cardboard" type aroma and flavour.

Litre (US - Liter

A metric measure of volume equal to 33.8 ounces.

M

Maceration

The contact of grape skins with the must during fermentation, extracting phenolic compounds including tannins, anthocyanins, and aroma.

Madeirized

A wine showing Madeira-like flavour, generally evidence of oxidation.  Sometimes used to describe white wine that has been kept long past its prime.

Magnum

A bottle holding 1.5 litres, the equivalent of two regular wine bottles.

Malolactic fermentation

Also known as malo or MLF, a secondary fermentation in wines by lactic acid bacteria during which tart tasting malic acid is converted to softer tasting lactic acid.  Usually results in softer red wines and more complex white wines.

Marc

French for "fruit skins".  See "pomace".

Master of Wine

A qualification (not an academic degree) conferred by The Institute of Masters of Wine, which is located in the United Kingdom.

May wine

A light German wine flavored with sweet woodruff in addition to strawberries or other fruit.

Merlot

Merlot is a variety of wine grape used to create a popular red wine.

Mis en boutielle au chteau

French for "bottled at the winery," usually in Bordeaux.

Mthode Champenoise

Process whereby sparkling wines receive a second fermentation in the same bottle that will be sold to a retail buyer.  Compare with Charmat or bulk fermented.

Methuselah

A large bottle holding six litres, the equivalent of eight regular wine bottles.

Microoxygenation

The controlled exposure of wine to small amounts of oxygen in the attempt to reduce the length of time required for maturation.

Midpalate

A tasting term for the feel and taste of a wine when held in the mouth.

Mud

See "Lees".

Mulled wine

Wine that is spiced, heated, and served as a punch.

Must

Unfermented grape juice, including pips, skins and stalks.

Must weight

The level of fermentable sugars in the must and the resultant alcohol content if all the sugar was converted to ethanol.

 N

Nebuchadnezzar

A large bottle holding 15 litres, the equivalent of 20 regular wine bottles.

Ngociant

French for "trader".  A wine merchant who assembles the produce of smaller growers and winemakers and sells the result under its own name.

New World wine

Wines produced outside of the traditional wine growing areas of Europe and North Africa.

Noble rot

Another name for the Botrytis cinerea mould that can pierce grape skins causing dehydration.  The resulting grapes produce a highly prized sweet wine, generally dessert wine.

Non-Vintage

Refers to a wine made by blending the juice of grapes from multiple vintages.

Nose

A tasting term for the aroma or bouquet of a wine.

 O

Oak chips

Small pieces of oak wood used in place of oak barrels in fermenting and/or ageing wine.

Oenology

The science of wine and winemaking.

Oenophile

A wine aficionado or connoisseur.

Old vine

Wine produced from vines that are notably old.

Old World wine

Wines produced inside of the traditional wine growing areas of Europe and North Africa.

 P

Palate

A tasting term for the feel and taste of a wine in the mouth.

pH

An acronym for "potential hydrogen" a measure of acidity.  The lower the pH, the higher the acidity.

Phylloxera

A microscopic underground insect that kills grape vines by attacking their roots.

Pip

Grape seeds.

Pipe

A cask holding two hogsheads or 120 gallons of wine.

Pomace

The skins, stalks, and seeds that remain after making wine.  Also called marc.

Proof

Refers to the alcohol content of a beverage.  In the United States, proof represents twice the alcohol content as a percentage of volume.  Thus, a 100 proof beverage is 50% alcohol by volume and a 150 proof beverage is 75% alcohol.  In the Imperial system, proof, (or 100% proof), equals 57.06% ethanol by volume, or 48.24% by weight.  Absolute or pure ethanol is 75.25 over proof, or 175.25 proof.

Puncheon

A wine barrel that holds approximately 318 litres (160 U.S. gallons).

Punt

The indentation found in the base of a wine bottle.  Punt depth is often thought to be related to wine quality, with better quality wines having a deeper punt.

 Q

Qualittswein

A designation of better quality German wines.

Qualittswein Bestimmter Anbaugebeite

A designation of better quality German wines from recognized viticultural areas.

Qualittswein mit Pradikat

A designation of best quality German wines that must conform to specific requirements of origin and composition.

 R

Racking

The process of drawing wine off the sediment, such as lees, after fermentation and moving it into another vessel.

Rehoboam

A large bottle holding 4.5 litres, the equivalent of six regular wine bottles.

Rmuage

See "riddling".

Reserva

Spanish and Portuguese term for a reserve wine.

Reserve

A term given to wine to indicate that it is of higher quality than usual.

Residual sugar

Also known as RS, the level of sugar that remains unfermented in a wine.  See also sweetness of wine.

Reverse osmosis

A process used to remove excess alcohol from wine made from intentionally overripe grapes.

Riddling

Also known as "Rmuage" in French, part of the Mthode Champenoise process whereby bottles of sparkling wine are successively turned and gradually tilted upside down so that sediment settles into the necks of the bottles in preparation for degorgement. Part of the Mthode Champenoise process.

Riesling

Also known as White Riesling in countries outside of Germany. Riesling is a variety of grape used to make white wine.  It is grown mainly in Germany, where the relatively cold climate enables it to produce grapes for some of the best white wines in the world. Riesling, however, is used for high quality wines also in Austria and can be found in countries like Australia, South Africa and Canada as well.  Riesling is famous for its vivid acidity and fruitiness both in the nose and on the palate.

Riserva

Italian term for a higher quality reserve wine.

Ros wines

Pink wines that are produced from the shortened contact of red wine juice with its skins, reducing the red colour of the wine.  These wines can also be made by blending a small amount of red wine with white wine.

Ruby

A style of Port wine that is generally sweet.

 S

Sack

An early English term for what is now called Sherry.

Salmanazar

A large bottle holding nine litres, the equivalent of 12 regular wine bottles.

Sangria

A tart punch made from red wine along with orange, lemon and apricot juice with added sugar.

Screwcap

An alternative to cork for sealing wine bottles, comprising a metal cap that screws onto threads on the neck of a bottle.  Also called a "Stelvin".

Sec

French for dry, except in the case of Champagne, where it means sweet.

Sekt

German sparkling wine.

Semi-generic

Wines made in the United States but named after places that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau requires be modified by a US name of geographic origin. Examples would be New York Chablis, Napa Valley Burgundy or California Champagne.

Sherry

A fortified wine that has been subjected to controlled oxidation to produce a distinctive flavor.

Shiraz

Shiraz or Syrah is a variety of grape used to make red wine.

Solera system

A process used to systematically blend various vintages of Sherry.

Sommelier

A trained wine expert that often works in fine restaurants.

Sparkling wine

Effervescent wine containing significant levels of carbon dioxide.

Sptlese

German for "select".  Generally applied to German late harvest wines.

Split

A wine bottle that holds 375 mL, half the equivalent of a typical 750 mL bottle.

Spumante

Italian for "sparkling".  Generally any sparkling wine from Italy, although producers of Franciacorta (wine) have recently started stating that Franciacorta is not a "spumante".

Stelvin

A brand of screwcap.

Still wine

Wine that is not sparkling wine.

Stoving wine

A production method of artifically mellowing wine by exposing it to heat.

Sulfites

Compounds added to wine to prevent oxidation and microbial spoilage.

Sulphur dioxide

A substance used in winemaking as a preservative.

Syndicat des Vins de Bordeaux et Bordeaux Superieur

An organisation representing the economic interests of wine producers in Bordeaux.

Sweetness of wine

Defined by the level of residual sugar in the final liquid after the fermentation has ceased.  However, how sweet the wine will actually taste is also controlled by factors such as the acidity and alcohol levels, the amount of tannin present, and whether the wine is sparkling.

 T

T budding

A technique that permits grafting of different grape varieties onto existing rootstocks in a vineyard.

T.B.A.

An abbreviation for the German wine Trockenbeerenauslese.

Table wine

Generally any wine that is not sparkling or fortified.  In the US these wines must also be between 7% and 14% alcohol by volume.

Tannin

Polyphenolic compounds that give wine a bitter, dry, or puckery feeling in the mouth. Iimparted into red wine from grape skins, seeds and stems, as well as through wood contact.  Tannins create a drying or textural sensation in the mouth, and can add structure to wine.  Also a key factor in enabling a wine to sustain prolonged aging in bottle.

Tart

A tasting term describing a wine high in acidity.  Often displayed by young, unripe wines.

Tartaric acid

The most important acid found in grapes.

Tasting flight

Refers to a selection of wines, usually between three and eight glasses, but sometimes as many as fifty, presented for the purpose of sampling and comparison.

Tears

See "legs".

Terroir

French for "soil", the physical and geographical characteristics of a particular vineyard site that give the resultant wine its unique properties.

Texture

A tasting term for the mouthfeel of wine on the palate.

Toast

The charcoal that is burned into the inside of wine casks.  To toast refers to that process.  It also refers to the practice of drinking an alcohol beverage along with wishing good health or other good fortune.

Trocken

German for "dry".

Trockenbeerenauslese

German for "dry berry selected".  A type of German wine made from vine-dried grapes.  Such grapes can be so rare that it can take a skilled picker a day to gather enough for just one bottle.

Tun

A wine cask that holds approximately, two butts, or 252 U.S. gallons.

 U

Ullage

Also known as headspace, the unfilled space in a wine bottle, barrel, or tank.

Unoaked

Also known as unwooded, refers to wines that have been matured without contact with wood/oak such as in aging barrels.

 V

Varietal

Wines made from a single grape variety.

Vermouth

A fortified wine that has been flavoured with as many as 40 herbs and spices.

Vertical and horizontal wine tasting

In a vertical tasting, different vintages of the same wine type from the same winery are tasted.  This emphasizes differences between various vintages.  In a horizontal tasting, the wines are all from the same vintage but are from different wineries.  Keeping wine variety or type and wine region the same helps emphasize differences in winery styles.

Vigneron

French for vine grower.

Vin

French for wine.

Via

Spanish for vineyard.

Vine

A plant on which grapes grow.

Vinegar

A sour-tasting, highly acidic, liquid made from the oxidation of ethanol in wine, cider, beer, fermented fruit juice, or nearly any other liquid containing alcohol.

Vineyard

A place where grape vines are grown for wine making purposes.

Vinho

Portuguese for wine.

Vinho verde

An effervescent white wine produced in Portugal.

Viniculture

The art and science of making wine.  Also called enology (or oenology).  Not to be confused with viticulture.

Vinification

The process of making grape juice into wine.

Vino

Italian and Spanish for wine.

Vintage

The year in which a particular wine's grapes were harvested.  When a vintage year is indicated on a label, it signifies that all the grapes used to make the wine in the bottle were harvested in that year.

Viticulture

The cultivation of grapes.  Not to be confused with viniculture.

Vitis labrusca

A breed of grapes native to North America.  See also Foxy.

Vitis vinifera

A breed of grapes native to Europe.

Volatile acidity:

The level of acetic acid present within a wine.

 W

Waiter's friend

A popular type of corkscrew used commonly in the hospitality industry.

Winemaker

A person engaged in the occupation of making wine.

Wine-press

A device, comprising two vats or receptacles, one for trodding and bruising grapes, and the other for collecting the juice.

Wine cave

A large cave that is excavated to provide a cool location for storing and aging wine.  Similar to wine cellar.

Wine cellar

A cool, dark location in which wine is stored, often for the purpose of ageing.

Wine fault

Undesirable characteristics in wine caused by poor winemaking techniques or storage conditions.

Wine fraud

Any form of dishonesty in the production or distribution of wine.

Wine label

The descriptive sticker or signage adhered to the side of a wine bottle.

Wine tasting

The sensory evaluation of wine, encompassing more than taste, but also mouthfeel, aroma, and colour.

 Y

Yeast

A microscopic unicellular fungi responsible for the conversion of sugars in must to alcohol.  This process is known as alcoholic fermentation.

Young

Wine that is not matured and usually bottled and sold within a year of its vintage.

 Z

Zymology

The science of fermentation.